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Mussel plague on Lake Tahoe?


Conservationists believe an invasion may be coming that could change the ecology of Lake Tahoe forever.

Quagga and zebra mussels, which cluster onto boats, piers, old boots, beer cans, or anything else that lingers in the water, have infested lakes and reservoirs in California and across the West. A single quagga or zebra mussel lays 1 million eggs a year, so once one creature gets into the lake, "it's all over," said Michael Donahoe, conservation co-chair at the Tahoe Area Sierra Club. The mussels clog boat engines and gobble up fish food, and their razor-sharp shells can cut the feet of unsuspecting beachgoers. 

Conservation groups filed an injunction on Thursday against additional pier and boat ramp construction on the lake, saying that increased boating would drive up the number of potential hosts for the menacing mussels.

No quagga or zebra mussels have been spotted in the lake, said Sierra Club's Ron Grassi, a volunteer boat inspector. But Grassi said he believes a contaminated boat will likely get past inspectors this summer. The mussels latch onto boats, kayaks, wet suits, and other gear, so recreationists could unknowingly transport them.

Boat inspectors check motor boats at launch sites for the tiny larvae, but Grassi says illegal launchers and non-motorized boats escape inspection.

On the busy Fourth of July weekend, Grassi said Friday, boats are lining up 30-deep to get into the water at designated launch points.

Fearing the invasion, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power banned recreational watercraft on Klondike Lake in the Owens Valley in May.

But the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is expanding the lake's boating capacity by permitting the construction of 128 private piers and six boat ramps as part of the Shorezone ordinance passed in October  2008. 

-- Amy Littlefield

Photo: A paddle steamer carries tourists across Lake Tahoe's Emerald Bay. Credit: Christopher Reynolds/Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (5)

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They are comming and will get there eventually. You can't stop them.

Please educate yourself about these little mollusks that are attempting to ruin our fun. Check out for inspection and cleaning tips for any sort of watercraft. Zebra and Quagga mussels already infest waters in Riverside, San Diego, Imperial, and Orange counties and the spread of these mussels to additional California waters will seriously impact our aquatic environment.

Wait a second. The lake HASN'T BEEN INFESTED, and they are filing law suits to prevent construction because it will be a place where clusters MIGHT develop IF the lake does become infested?

This lawsuit is completely baseless and a waste of the courts resources. There is no injury and they are attempting to deprive people access to the lake because THEY think it is a good idea. Want to bet that the people filing the suit already have piers, etc. in place?

Way to go LA Times for completely missing (or simply not caring) the way these 'conservationists" are abusing and trampling on the rights of others.

If the water was as clean as it once was I doubt if the animals could even live there. Certainly not in large numbers.

The other issue is that they don't live forever out of water so what you need to check is things like live wells and water coolers that might contain water from an infested body of water.

The only sport that is going to be negatively impacted is fishing. The water will be a heck of a lot cleaner and less polluted.

My sister has lived in Alpine Meadows for over thirty years now.

TAHOE is about "nouveau riche" money, and nothing more.

Betta watch out, cause MONEY clearly rules the entire region. Trust me


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