Wednesday, 01 February 2023

Calkins: Action needed on the serious quagga mussel threat

The recent workshop on quagga mussels (held at the Board of Supervisors chambers on Nov. 8) and previous meetings/Board of Supervisors discussions/classes are all similar and real scary. The threat is well defined (results of these mussels getting into a waterway); any chance of eradication is all but dismissed; significant ongoing monitoring of the lake (including water sample DNA analysis) is described to see if we have them (negative so far); and the public outreach to inform our residents is reviewed.


It is agreed that prevention is our only hope. The scary part is that no significant prevention actions (either underway or in the planning stages) are discussed.


The county says that prevention is a state task and we cannot afford to do anything but wait for the state to act. The state has stepped up inspection at several Southern California border inspection stations, which is good.


The state has assigned the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) as the lead agency and recently passed a resolution (AB1683) to give more power to agencies to fight against these invaders. A DFG employee at the meeting stated that while she is not aware of the current status on their effort, DFG is very understaffed and has had significant budget cuts recently. She did describe the effort where dogs are being trained and used to locate mussels (like drug sniffing) and Lake County will have two such dogs; that is also good.


When one analyzes the data presented at these meetings and then does some research to validate and expand this knowledge, the scare is amplified. All information indicates that if the mussels (quagga or zebra) were to reach Clear Lake (an ideally suited environment for them) the lake and the county would change forever.


Over a period of (5+ ?) years, the lake would be dominated by the mussels, the fishery as we know it today would be wiped out (bass included), many of the birds would be gone, the beaches and shores would be covered with sharp mussel shells and would stink from decaying mussel tissue.


The recreational lure of the lake would be gone as would much of the county revenue. However, costs would soar, water usage from the lake would become very costly as every water pump inlet would need to continually be cleaned or have expensive chlorine dispensers installed to keep the mussels from closing them off.


This would be another nail in the coffin of our struggling agriculture industry. All of this would cause property values to plummet and further hit the county revenue stream. And of course this is not isolated to our county; Cache Creek would spread the mussels into the delta and the state’s water distribution system.


Most would quickly say this doomsday scenario is at best exaggerated and probably not accurate, the lake has done well for hundreds of thousands of years etc., etc. Many are hoping that eradication of the mussels is not impossible as now assumed and scientists are trying to understand effective ways of doing so.


A “California Science Advisory Panel” (including experts on Clear Lake) was assembled to address this threat and their report “California’s Response to the Zebra/Quagga Mussel Invasion in the West” (May 2007) is available for reading on the Internet. This report confirms the serious threat to the west and concludes that it would be foolish to not do everything possible to prevent or eradicate these invaders even if significant short-term interruption to tourism, fishing or recreation would result. They admit that prevention/eradication costs would be high and may seem too over whelming but would be justified when compared to the long-term environmental and economic costs of an invasion.


So, why are we doing so little and not sensing a higher level of urgency on this topic?


We recently had a large bass tournament and several of the boats were from the Lake Mead area. Inspection was not enforced prior to going into our lake; any precautions taken with these boats were entirely up to the owners. Several Lake Mead contestants in the tournament admitted to taking no precautions prior to entering Clear Lake.


Many Southern California boats use our lake for many reasons. Even if a boat owner wanted to have a boat sanitized for mussels prior to launching, there is still no effective station for getting that done in Lake County.


One has to agree that ultimately control should be at the state level (ours is not the only lake at risk), but it is our lake and our local economy and we should not be willing to stand back and wait until the DFG gets its act together to protect us.


What can we do?


Controlling access to this lake is difficult at best. However this threat was first presented to the Board of Supervisors in 2005, and again early this year with a frightening update that the mussels were now in California and still no effective action or plan.


One possibility is to "shut down" our lake and publicize it widely; have the county declare that lake county waterways are off limits to out-of-county boats unless they are inspected and properly sanitized. Anyone proved to be violating this restriction will be fined $10,000. An action similar to this was proposed by one of our supervisors in February of 2007, but I guess ruled out as overkill?


At the very least something like this should be done until less intrusive (state?) controls are in place and effective.


Why is the Sierra Club not all over this? It is certainly a greater short-term risk to our lake than global warming. It is certainly more of an environmental threat than herbicides on our roadways.


Tell your supervisors you want them to escalate this issue as a county priority and assign a strategic task force to put a plan together. We should not panic over this but it does warrant our best effort.


Ed Calkins is chairman of the Clear Lake Advisory Subcommittee. He lives in Kelseyville.


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1Feb
02.01.2023 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
East Region Town Hall
1Feb
02.01.2023 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Clear Lake hitch listening session
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Rotary Club of Middletown
2Feb
02.02.2023 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Clearlake City Council
8Feb
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9Feb
02.09.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
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11Feb
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02.11.2023 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
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