Posted by: alpengroup | May 29, 2009

Tahoe Diver’s Conservancy Finds Invasive Species in Emerald Bay – TRPA in denial!!

Troubled Waters
Tahoe Regional Planning Agency in Denial

Tahoe Divers Conservancy – Staff
When we are asked by tourists, “What do you see under there?” the most common response by divers with the Tahoe Divers Conservancy is “not much”.   Swimming among beautiful waves of granite boulders the size of houses, bright reflections of light from mica studded sandy lake bottom and a generally stark but surreal crystal environment. We often describe diving in the Lake Tahoe as Zen Diving.

In Tahoe we use diving as instrument of discovery, a mental discipline by which one attempts to get beyond the conditioned, “thinking” mind into a deeper state of relaxation or awareness. It is a psychophysical practice which leads to a greater focus and a more relaxed and peaceful frame of mind.

But now the underwater world of Lake Tahoe is disturbingly full of strange, new life.

In just a few years, the vast sandy nearshore that for centuries covered the bottom of Lake Tahoe have disappeared under a carpet of invasive plants. The change is not merely cosmetic. Invasive species are upending the ecology of Lake Tahoe, shifting distribution of species and starving familiar fish of their usual food supply.

Eurasian watermilfoil, Curlyleaf Pondweed and the Asian Clam are all found in Lake Tahoe now. [CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS][CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO]
And it is not just invasive plants.  Scores of Brown Bullhead Catfish were found in Emerald Bay.  Once confined to the Tahoe Keys and Taylor Marsh, non-native fish are propagating all over Lake Tahoe.  Signs of the shift are hard to ignore now. Mats of dead, smelly plants are already washing ashore on Lake Tahoe’s  beautiful beaches, castoffs of a vast underwater expanse. So it must have been an ironic and bitter pill to shallow for someone who has spent the last thirty years diving in Lake Tahoe, working on environmental issues to stand before the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) Governing Board to be chastised by their Executive Director as if he doesn’t know algae from a hole in the water.

I watched with other divers in the room as Phil Caterino, Executive Director of the Tahoe Divers Conservancy, one of only three Divers Conservancies in North America, tried to explain the dire consequences of the aquatic invasive species problem in Lake Tahoe to the Governing Board only to be interrupted by their Director to explain that those huge floating mats discovered by the divers in Emerald Bay were caused by oxidation from rocks and not to jump to conclusion that it just might be an algae bloom caused by years of growth of Eurasian Watermilfoil in Emerald Bay.

She suggested that they sent in team of scientists to do a report that will be presented next month.  Next month, I thought!  What about tomorrow? Who is out working on this problem now? We have the equivalent of a catastrophic wildfire burning underwater at Lake Tahoe.

When you have a forest fire you called firemen not scientists.

Years of invasive growth and colonization have gone unabated and underfunded for removal by the very Agency in charge of protecting its waters.

In the divers survey this month they also found Curlyleaf Pondweed for the first time in Emerald Bay. Now there are more Catfish seen than trout in the Bay and this latest bloom is seen by many in the diving community as the beginning of the end of Lake Tahoe as we know it.

An ironic twist to this story is that Phil Caterino left the Ways and Means meeting in Carson City, Nevada, that morning to speak to the TRPA Governing Board after testifying on Nevada Assembly Bill No.18 which would give TRPA $100M for its work on environmental improvements at Lake Tahoe.

Let the TRPA know that this issue is important to you and immediate action is needed to implement a program for containment of aquatic invasive species is an ongoing year around program.

PHONE OR EMAIL THE TRPA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR –
Joanne Marchetta – Executive Director-TRPA
jmarchetta@trpa.org    (775) 589-5226

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Responses

  1. Wow!
    But why am I not surprised! We all care dearly about the Lake and I think the any good intentions that TRPA has may well be constricted by their own bureaucracy and their lack of connection with those that actually work in the water all day.
    We have met the enemy and it is us!

  2. The TRPA needs to let the people (The Divers Conservancy, and its divers) get the work done. “Curly Leaf, Water Milfoil,Asian Clams, Quaga mussel, and pond scum” don’t belong in Tahoe and never have. When this gets out of hand, which it might be already, our blue jem and natural wonder will become a catfish pond. The econimic value of Lake Tahoe not to mention the love from locals will be lost forever if something is not done now.Please, Please stop talking about it and let the firemen(divers) do there job. The divers in this case are the people that need to be listened to. The evidence is there….Where are you?!?

  3. As a point of information, this media release was distributed on May 13 by the Tahoe Resource Conservation District, CA state parks, and TRPA. It addresses some of what may be being observed at Emerald Bay:

    Contact: Nicole Cartwright, Tahoe Resource Conservation District, 530.543.1501 ext 111, ncartwright@tahoercd.org
    Daniel Shaw, California State Parks, 530.581.4315, dshaw@parks.ca.gov
    Rita Whitney, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, 775-589-5258, rwhitney@trpa.org
    Date: May 13, 2009

    LAKE TAHOE AQUATIC WEED REMOVAL OCCURING IN EMERALD BAY
    Boaters to expect buoy restrictions

    The Tahoe Resource Conservation District, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and California State Parks will be conducting aquatic weed removal this summer in Emerald Bay and other small sites along the near shore of Lake Tahoe.

    Starting in May in Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe boaters should be prepared to avoid a small area roped off with buoys and signs that will restrict access where bottom barriers are being placed to kill Eurasian watermilfoil. “This small closed area will have minimal affect on recreational boaters that boat into Emerald Bay at Emerald Bay State Park. We are asking for the boating community’s cooperation by honoring the closed area and thereby helping us get rid of this invasive weed,” stated Tamara Sasaki, Senior Environmental Scientist for California State Parks

    “We will use two methods, bottom barriers and diver assisted hand removal, to control existing populations of invasive Eurasian watermilfoil and Curlyleaf pondweed” said Nicole Cartwright, Tahoe Resource Conservation District.

    The removal of aquatic weeds has been occurring in Emerald Bay and Lake Tahoe since the summer of 2007, with this being the first year with restricted boating use in project areas. “The effects of these removal methods have been proven to be very successful” said Rita Whitney, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency
    Eurasian watermilfoil populations in the lake are documented as far back as 1986. The population has expanded drastically along the near-shore creating warm water environments. Curlyleaf pondweed was first found in 2003, and is showing signs of competing with the milfoil and spreading at an even faster rate. In 2007 the Lake Tahoe Aquatic Invasive Species Working Group (LTAISWG) prioritized Tahoe’s invasive species and removal projects. The LTAISWG has been dedicated to protecting the Lake Tahoe Basin from aquatic invasive species by education, research, prevention, early detection, rapid response, and control.
    For more information, please call the Lake Tahoe Aquatic Nuisance Species Hotline, 1-888-TAHO-ANS.

  4. What is going on up there? I live in the Folsom area and my family and I have always enjoyed our summer trips to Tahoe. The great beaches and clear blue waters have always attracted us there, but from the sound of it those two treasured aspects of Lake Tahoe are being threatened! If I wanted to take my family to a plant filled marsh I have plently of options but Tahoe is a Jem of this area for a reason! I’m not a Tahoe expert and I may not keep up on much Tahoe Politics but I must say I dont think I have ever heard many postive things about the TRPA! So I will ask again, What is going on up there?


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