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
firstname.lastname@example.org (775) 589-5226