Quagga Trouble for Inyo County Could Lead to One Lake Closure

The quagga mussel, the size of a fingernail has not been found in the waters of the Eastern Sierra and yet has managed to cause all sorts of trouble. To keep the invasive species out of local lakes, rivers and the LA aqueduct, there is talk of temporarily closing Diaz Lake near Lone Pine to boats, and even total closure of Klondike Lake between Big Pine and Bishop.quagga_mussel.jpg

At the Inyo Supervisors meeting in Independence Tuesday, the board looked into ways to keep the mussel out of Diaz Lake. The lake is owned by the City of Los Angeles, but leased to Inyo County. Department of Water and Power staff has asked the county to inspect the boats that are used to fish and water ski at Diaz Lake. Now the Inyo Supervisors are working on a solution.

Parks and Recreation Director Chuck Hamilton explained that one option was to hire staff to inspect the boats that use the lake, but this could lead to increased fees to make up for the increased cost. Closing the lake to boats and only allowing shore fishing is an option, but Hamilton said this might lead to considerable public opposition.

Another option discussed was to hire a concessionaire to run operations and inspections at Diaz Lake. Hamilton explained that the county used to be $218,000 in the red at the Tecopa Hot Springs. Now that a concessionaire had been hired to run the facility, the county makes $10,000 a year on Tecopa.

The concessionaire idea did not sit well with supervisor Richard Cervantes. He told the board that the concessionaire at Tecopa had left a bad taste, and that he wouldnt sign up for a concessionaire without the involvement of the community of Lone Pine. Supervisors Beverly Brown and Linda Arcularius made statements in support of the idea of finding a private party to run operations at the lake.

Another option was to turn the problem over to the Department of Water and Power, but as Supervisor Arcularius pointed out, this solution leaves the county without control over the situation and the Department of Water and Power might just close the lake down.

The idea that the lake might end up closed is not impossible. Department Biologist Brian Tillemans explained that Haiwee Reservoir south of Lone Pine was closed for security and health concerns after 9-11. Now the quagga mussels could lead to a closure of Klondike Lake. Calling the quagga the most serious threat he had seen in his 20 years working in watershed protection, Tillemans said that department staff is currently looking into a possible closure of Klondike.

A search for a long term quagga solution at Diaz Lake is set to continue at the next supervisors meeting. In short term, the lake may be closed to boating during hours when staff is not available to inspect boats.

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