What is a Tahoe Keeper?
A Tahoe Keeper is a paddler, or any non-motorized watercraft operator, who is trained and certified to inspect and decontaminate their boats and gear every time they haul out and move between any lake, river or stream in the Lake Tahoe basin to help stop the spread of AIS.
Are watercraft inspections mandatory for non-motorized watercraft?
No, it is not mandatory in 2014 to have non-motorized watercraft inspected at roadside stations. To protect your paddling experience and comply with the law, simply Clean, Drain and Dry your watercraft and gear after every use and properly Dispose of any plants of debris you find. Participation in the Tahoe Keepers stewardship program will provide you with credentials that demonstrate you are an informed paddler and that you will self-inspect and decontaminate your own watercraft after every use. However, you can certainly practice Clean, Drain and Dry habits and continue to paddle at Lake Tahoe without credentials.
How long does an inspection take?
An inspection only takes a few minutes if you come prepared. Clean, Drain and Dry your boat after every use. AIS can potentially collect in cockpits and hatches, cling to outer hulls, rudders and paddles, and even hide out in your gear.
What can I do to make this a quick and simple process?
Come prepared! Clean, Drain and Dry your watercraft and gear every time you haul out of any waterway. Additionally, become a registered Tahoe Keeper.
Is there a fee for non-motorized watercraft inspections?
No, non-motorized watercraft inspections and decontaminations are available free of charge at all roadside inspection stations. This includes kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, inflatable rafts, and all other non-motorized or hand-launched watercraft.
How can I get my non-motorized watercraft decontaminated?
Decontaminations will be determined by a certified inspector. If the inspector required your vessel be decontaminated, Tahoe RCD staff will perform the decontamination at the inspection site. Depending on your vessels complexity, decontaminations can last anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. At this time decontaminations are free of charge, but this may change in the future.
What are quagga and zebra mussels?
Dreissena bugensis (quagga) and Dreissana polymorpha (Zebra) are destructive invasive aquatic species that grow to about an inch in diameter. Sometimes they are larger, sometimes they are microscopic. The small, freshwater bivalve mollusks are triangular with a ridge between the side and bottom. It has black, cream or white bands, and often features dark rings on its shell almost like stripes.
Why should we be concerned about quagga and zebra mussels in California and/or Lake Tahoe?
They reproduce quickly and in large numbers. Once established, eradication is extremely difficult though new technologies are becoming available. Their establishment in California waters or Lake Tahoe could result in an environmental and economic disaster.
What is the environmental impact of the quagga and/or zebra mussel?
Quagga and zebra mussels will upset the food chain by consuming phytoplankton that other species need to survive. They are filter feeders that consume large portions of the microscopic plants and animals that form the base of the food web. Their consumption of significant amounts of phytoplankton from the water decreases zooplankton and can cause a shift in native species and a disruption of the ecological balance of entire bodies of water. In addition, they can displace native species, further upsetting the natural food web.
What is the economic impact of the quagga and/or zebra mussel?
Quagga and zebra mussels can colonize on hulls, engines and steering components of boats and other recreational equipment. If left unchecked, can damage boat motors and restrict engine cooling systems. They also attach to aquatic plants and submerged sediment and surfaces such as piers, pilings, water intakes and fish screens. In doing this they can clog water intake structures hampering the flow of water. They frequently settle in massive colonies that can black water intake and threaten municipal water supply, agricultural irrigation and power plant operations. U.S. Congressional researchers estimated that an infestation of the zebra mussel in the Great Lakes area cost the power industry $3.1 billion from 1993-1999, with an economic impact to industries, businesses and communities of more than $5 billion. More recently the infestation of Lake Mead in Southern Nevada costs tax payers $20 million per year in control efforts. California could spend hundreds of millions of dollars protecting the state’s water system from a quagga and zebra infestation.
How did the quagga and zebra mussels get to the Western United States?
Quagga and zebra mussels primarily more from one place to another through human-related activities. They attach to hard surfaces and can survive out of water for up to a week. The microscopic larvae also can be transported in bilges, ballast water, live wells or other equipment that holds water. Authorities discovered quagga mussels living in the Colorado River at Lake Mead, Lake Mohave and Lake Havasu in January 2007. It is likely they were originally brought to Lake Mead on the hull of a recreational boat. Additional bodies of water were infected in California as the veligers drifted downriver from Lake Mead.
Do quagga or zebra mussels have predators?
Quagga and zebra mussels have few natural predators in North America. It has been documented that several species of fish and diving ducks have been known to eat them, but there species are not an effective control. In some cases, the mussels concentrate botulism toxin causing bird die offs.
Can we get rid of them?
It may be possible to eradicate quagga and zebra mussels if they are in small masses and low density. However, preventing their spread is the best course of action. Since their larvae are free drifting, preventing their spread downstream from known infestations may not be possible. Eradication can also be expensive depending upon the infected water body.
What does the law say about these mussels?
Federal Law: US Fish and Wildlife Service Lacey Act (18 USC 42-43, 16 USC 3371-3378) Importation or shipment of injurious mammals, birds, fish (including mollusks and crustacean), amphibia, and reptiles; permits, specimens for museums; regulations… A.1. The importation into the United States, any territory of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any possession of the United States, or any shipment between the continental United States, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or the mongoose of the species Herpestes auropunctatus; of the species of so-called ‘flying foxes’ or fruit bats of the genus Pteropus; of the zebra mussel of the species Dreisserna polymorpha; and such other species of wild mammals, wild birds, fish (including mollusks and crustacean), amphibians, reptiles, brown tree snakes, or the offspring or eggs of any of the foregoing which the Secretary of the Interior may prescribe by regulation to be injurious to human beings, to the interests of agriculture, horticulture, forestry, or to wildlife or the wildlife resources of the United States, is hereby prohibited. All such prohibited mammals, birds, fish (including mollusks and crustacean), amphibians, and reptiles, and the eggs or offspring therefrom, shall be promptly exported or destroyed at the expense of the importer of consignee. Also, this section shall not authorize any action with respect to the importation of any plant pest as defined in the Federal Plant Pest Act, insofar as such importation is subject to regulation under that Act. State Laws: California and Nevada California ANS Laws California Fish and Game Code (22.214.171.1240-2272) • No live aquatic plant or animal may be imported into state water without prior written approval of the department pursuant to regulation adopted by the commission. California Food and Agriculture Code (126.96.36.199.6048-6049) • It is illegal to possess Hydrilla verticillata. Nevada ANS Laws Nevada Department of Wildlife Miscellaneous Protective Measures (Chapter 503) • Prohibits the importation, transportation or possession of a specific list of live wildlife. Nevada Department of Agriculture Noxious Weed Abatement Statutes (NAC Chapter 555) • Establishes laws for the active quarantine and eradication of listed noxious weeds. Local Law: Tahoe Regional Planning Agency TRPA 79.3 Aquatic Invasive Species: Aquatic Invasive Species pose a serious threat to the waters of the Lake Tahoe Region. They can have a disastrous impact to the ecology, recreation and the economy. Aquatic Invasive Species shall include but not be limited to: zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha), quagga mussel (Dreissena bugensis), Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum L.), curlyleaf pondweed (Potamogento crisup L.), and largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides). The following provisions shall be adhered to in order to prevent the introduction and spread of Aquatic Invasive Species. 79.3 A Prohibition: The transport or introduction of Aquatic Invasive Species into the Lake Tahoe Region is prohibited. Further, the launching of any watercraft contaminated with Aquatic Invasive Species into the waters of the Tahoe Region is prohibited. 79.3 B Watercraft Inspections and Decontaminations: (1) An owner operator of a boat ramp or other boat launch facility (exclusive of single family residences) shall close the ramp or facility to launching of watercraft at all times when the provisions of subsection (2) have not been or cannot otherwise be provided or met. (2) All watercraft, motorized and non-motorized, including but not limited to boats, personal watercraft, kayaks, canoes and rafts, shall be subject to an inspection prior to launching into the waters of the Lake Tahoe Region to detect the presence, and prevent the introduction, of Aquatic Invasive Species. Inspections shall be conducted by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency or its designee. (3) All watercraft inspected in the subsection (2) shall be subject to decontamination if determined necessary by an inspection under 79.3 B(2). A watercraft shall launch only if the required decontamination is performed and completed by a trained individual pursuant to TRPA standards pursuant to TRPA’s standards and requirements for Aquatic Invasive Species Inspections. (4) All watercraft inspected in compliance with subsection (2) and decontaminated in compliance with subsection (3) are subject to a fee to pay for the inspection and/or decontamination and other program costs. The TRPA Governing Board will review and approve the fee amount and structure annually.
Why have all the infested waters not been closed to boat traffic?
Each water body holds a unique position in the state city or county in which it is located. A unilateral closure of waters can have devastating economic impacts upon a community. Agencies work with each water authority in charge of an infested water to determine the best control and containment methods. Options include possibly closing additional lakes or reservoirs, allowing only rental boats or mandating cleaning of all boats exiting the water or reducing access. Staffing and resources can affect these decisions and the ability to implement some of these options.
What about boats in saltwater? Does saltwater affect the mussels?
If a boat has been in saltwater, there is little risk of it transporting life freshwater mussels (though it can transport other invasive species). A conservative estimate of the lethal salt concentration for mussels is 10 to 15 parts per thousand (ppt), so realistically, anything above 10 ppt should kill quagga and zebra mussels. The average ocean salinity is 35 ppt. What is currently unknown is the time duration necessary for the salt to kill the mussels.