Boaters seeking to go on to Lake Nacimiento and Lake San Antonio will need to pass an inspection before launch to reduce the risk of transporting invasive mussels and other species, the county has announced.
No vessels that have been on an infested lake in the past 10 days will be allowed on either lake.
“If you’ve been on an infested lake in the last 30 days, your boat must be clean, drained, and dry,” county engineers wrote in a news release.
Boaters should allow extra time to get through the inspection process. They must carry a signed and stamped vessel screening permit or run the risk of being fined up to $2,000. Permits must be renewed every 14 days to reduce the risk of re-entry.
Lakes Lopez and Santa Margarita have similar programs in place.
Invasive species such as quagga and zebra mussels have been spreading into California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and Utah waterways over the past four years, according to project engineer Carolyn Berg.
Lake Mead in Nevada/ Arizona is infested, she wrote, as are another 25 locations in California, including Lake Havasu and the Colorado River, which border Arizona as well.
The closest infested lake is San Justo Lake in San Benito County, which has been closed to the public.
Quagga and zebra mussels disrupt the ecosystem, Berg wrote.
“They reproduce at incredible rates and cluster and clog boat hulls, propellers, engines and intakes; cover piers and pilings; clog water pipes and intakes; and ultimately coat the water’s edge with sharp, smelly shells,” the engineers wrote. “Worse yet, once mussels get a foothold, there is no known way to get them out of our lakes.”
In an interview, Berg told The Tribune that she had recently been to a training session on how to deal with mussels at Lake Mead, and the mussels “are wreaking havoc all over everything.”
She said they can cover a propeller in weeks, get inside the cooling intake and even harm beaches. Not only is there property and ecosystem damage, she said, but the smell is terrible.
The environmental and economic impact of infestation could be devastating, she wrote. “Invasive mussels spread from lake to lake by ‘hitchhiking’ on boats from infested waters.”
The county has trained 150 volunteers to inspect boats as they launch. Unlike Lopez and Santa Margarita lakes, there are private boat launching pads at Lake Nacimiento, and residents have come forth to monitor those.
“Keeping our lakes clean and safe is our highest priority. I cannot stress strongly enough the necessity to implement the protective measures to do so,” said County Supervisor Frank Mecham.
For more information, go to www.slocountywater.org.