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L.A. water officials limit boating on Klondike Lake

May 15, 2009 | 12:56 pm

Klondike skiing

There’s an uproar over the infamous freshwater quagga mussel at Klondike Lake, one of the few patches of water in the sprawling Owens Valley open to motorized water recreation.

In an effort to keep the prolific, destructive bivalve from surging into the Los Angeles aqueduct system, the city Department of Water and Power was expected this afternoon to ban the use of personal watercraft (such as Jet Skis) and recreational boats on the 160-acre lake — and install a fence around it.

For 20 years, “it was anything goes on Klondike Lake — no gates, no law enforcement, nothing,” said Russ Markman, owner of Bishop Adventure Rentals and head of the Save Klondike Committee, a group dedicated to keeping the lake open to motorized boating. “It’s the only place like it in this region for eastern Sierra families. It isn’t right to lock us out.”

Markman has collected 2,500 signatures on a petition urging the Inyo County Board of Supervisors and DWP to fund a concessionaire to inspect boats at the lake, which is just east of U.S. Highway 395 and about two miles north of Big Pine.

In a compromise, the DWP announced plans today to allow motorized boats to launch between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. during the next four Saturdays, provided they undergo an on-site $10 quagga inspection, said DWP assistant aqueduct manager Clarence Martin.

“If it gets up here, it will devastate the infrastructure and fisheries,” Martin said. “It will end recreational fishing in the eastern Sierra altogether.”

Experts suspect the quagga, which has wreaked havoc from the Great Lakes to Lake Mead, is spreading via water systems and on recreational boats moved by trailer from one marina to another. Forming large masses that clog water pumps, it has already infested the 242-mile-long California Aqueduct, and reservoirs in San Diego and Riverside counties. As it stands, there are no indications that the thumbnail-sized mussel has infiltrated the Owens Valley aqueduct system, which supplies Los Angeles with 25% of its water. DWP officials hope to keep it at bay.

“We’re going to enjoy Klondike Lake while we still can,” Markman said. “We got the DWP to let us have it until 3 p.m. today. Our plan is to water ski like crazy, and discuss our next move.”

-- Louis Sahagun

Photo: Klondike Lake. Credit: Russ Markman

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