Meeks Creek eradication project also part of agency’s overall work to prevent unwanted species

By Jaclyn Tain / U.S. Forest Service

Kayaker Matt Dickinson heads out for a paddle. All visitors with non-motorized watercraft are asked a series of questions when using developed U.S. Forest Service recreation sites to ensure their vessels are not spreading aquatic invasive species. Learn more at Photo: U.S. Forest Service

Around the country, the transportation of aquatic invasive species from waterbody to waterbody is on the rise. For the past 10 years, agencies around the Lake Tahoe Basin, including the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU), have worked together to prevent new infestations and control existing populations in the lake.

The LTBMU manages the public access of over 74 percent of the land in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Thus, the involvement of the LTBMU in the aquatic invasive species program is essential.

While motorized boat inspections have been extremely successful, non-motorized vessels pose a threat for spreading aquatic invasive species as well. Aquatic hitchhikers do not have a preference between motorized and non-motorized crafts and can attach to kayaks, paddleboards, rafts, and canoes. They can hide on hulls and rudders, and in hatches, cockpits, and gear.

All visitors with non-motorized watercraft entering developed Forest Service sites are asked a series of questions to ensure their watercraft is clean, drained, and dry.

Many National Forest sites at Lake Tahoe are managed by concessionaires and permittees that operate under a special-use permit to provide recreation services to the public.

“Our permittees are diligent in their work, ensuring all visitors are properly screened at non-motorized vessel entry points,” said LTBMU aquatic biologist Sarah Muskopf. “They are essential in the fight against aquatic invasive species.”

These sites include the beaches along the Pope-Baldwin corridor in South Lake Tahoe, Meeks Bay Resort and Meeks Bay Campground, Round Hill Pines, Nevada Beach, Zephyr Cove Resort, and Echo Lakes.

Throughout the course of a single season, permittees who manage these sites talk to thousands of visitors about protecting Lake Tahoe. This not only prevents new infestations, but also educates a vast number of people who visit the lake about the consequences of aquatic invasive species and the importance of prevention.

The Forest Service, with funding support from the California Tahoe Conservancy, will implement a project that will remove aquatic invasive plants where Meeks Creek meets Lake Tahoe. In this area, the population of invasive plants is up to an acre in size and is considered a high-priority to remove the infestation.

Work on the control project is slated to begin this summer and will use proven methods for this size and scale of infestation—mainly bottom barriers and diver hand-pulling.

“Program partners are excited to see this project begin as controlling this isolated population has the potential to make the West Shore of the lake entirely weed free,” said Dennis Zabaglo, aquatic resources program manager for TRPA.

Jaclyn Tain is a public affairs assistant and conservation education resource assistant for the U.S. Forest Service.