Quagga Mussels have not arrived in the Eastern Sierra, but this tiny invasive species has proven to be so destructive elsewhere that the fear of these creatures has led to changes in how we recreate.
The mussels are said to reproduce in such numbers as to clog pipes and pumps once the pests arrive. They can also destroy fisheries by filtering out the tiny aquatic creatures that make up the bottom of the food chain. The species is not here yet, but the possibility that the quagga will arrive is present. Since January of 2007, Fish and Game Officials say that 190,000 boats have been inspected at state entry points. 310 boats are reported to have been found with adult qaugga mussels.
With hydro-electric power generators, pipelines, and fisheries to worry about, LADWP has shut down unsupervised boat launching at Crowley Lake, banned motorboats on Klondike Lake, and convinced Inyo County to inspect boats at Diaz Lake.
By now, these restrictions are likely familiar to boaters, but these are only three of the many lakes popular for boaters to launch in the Eastern Sierra. There are still other lakes, like South Lake, Lake Sabrina, the Lakes Basin in Mammoth, the lakes of the June Lake area, and others still that do not require quagga inspections.
Rather than staff these lakes with full time employees which are not in the budget, Inyo National Forest staff plans to focus on education to keep the quagga from gumming up the works. Nancy Upham with the Forest Service explained that at a controlled marina its relatively easy to set up inspections, but at the little un-staffed boat launches across the Eastern Sierra that might only see two boats a day there just isn’t money available for inspections, she explained.
While places like Lake Tahoe are already charging $10-60 for boat inspections, so far most of the local lakes are free and uninspected. This leaves the fate of the waters in the hands of the boaters that arrive.
Fish and Game officials are pushing the clean, drain, and dry, message to boaters with the goal of having individual boaters take responsibility for keeping their favorite waters quagga free.
Its a tough problem, Nancy Upham says, that will get tougher probably if we don’t deal with it.
Anglers should expect to see increased signage at local lakes, more advice from campground hosts and concessionaires this summer.