Fight against invasive species in Tahoe gets a boost | TheUnion.com

Fight against invasive species in Tahoe gets a boost

Justin Scacco
Special to The Union

Lake Tahoe's stewards have been given additional resources in the long-standing war against the lake's invasive species.

The Tahoe Fund and the Tahoe Water Suppliers Association recently announced the successful completion of fundraising efforts to purchase more than 150 bottom barriers and other necessary supplies to aid the Tahoe Resource Conservation District in its fight to rid the lake of aquatic invasive species.

The inventory of bottom barriers was 1.6 acres short of the maximum 5 acres of coverage permitted for Tahoe, according to a statement from the association, but with the additional funding the entire 5 acres of bottom barriers can now be deployed.

"We really appreciate the private support through the Tahoe fund and the public support through the Tahoe Water Suppliers Association," said Tahoe Resource Conservation District Executive Director Nicole Cartwright.

“Aquatic invasive species and invasive species are a pretty big threat to Lake Tahoe, so everybody should be taking it seriously.”

— Madonna Dunbar, Tahoe Water Suppliers Association

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The association has helped in the purchase of bottom barriers in the past, according to Executive Director Madonna Dunbar, with the donation of roughly $8,000 the cause a few years ago.

In 2017, Tahoe Water Suppliers Association set aside $26,000 to further help in completing the bottom barrier project, when a board member suggested the group reach out to the Tahoe Fund. Shortly after, the two entities agreed on a matching challenge to raise the final $52,000 necessary to complete the project.

"We were going to throw the $26,000 down no matter what, and then one of the board members said, maybe the Tahoe Fund would want to match or work with us. It just all clicked," said Dunbar.

"This was the very first time we've done something like this and we're delighted it was so successful. It's definitely opened up the power of partnership for us."

The project got major boosts in funding from the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation's Queen of Hearts, Tahoe Blue Vodka, and also smaller private donors.

BENEATH THE SURFACE

The bottom barriers will be deployed this spring by the Tahoe Resource Conservation District, which helps control invasive species through projects such as bottom barriers, ultraviolet lights, hand pulling of weeds and early detection.

Aquatic invasive plants affect water quality around the shoreline of Lake Tahoe, but the Tahoe Resource Conservation District has helped curtail the advance of aquatic invasive weeds with the use of bottom barriers and diver-assisted hand pulling. Aquatic invasive species in Lake Tahoe include Eurasian water milfoil, curly leaf pondweed, Asian clams, and warm water fish.

The bottom barriers have been successful in the fight against Eurasian water milfoil and curly leaf pondweed by starving the plants of sunlight, according to Cartwright, and are comprised of a synthetic plastic-like material that allows oxygen to flow back and forth, leaving the lake's macro-inverterbrates (snails and clams) unharmed in the process.

The 5 acres of coverage aren't continuous said Cartwright, and can be divided up to cover different locations around Tahoe. The group is targeting Lakeside Beach and Marina on the South Shore and Tahoe Vista on the North Shore, as well as other locations for the upcoming season.

"Aquatic invasive species and invasive species are a pretty big threat to Lake Tahoe, so everybody should be taking it seriously," said Dunbar. "The water suppliers want to see the innovative methods used here, things like the bottom barriers and ultraviolet light. We've been opposing the use of herbicide for eight years, and that's been stalled at this point, at least for this year."

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Truckee Sun. Contact him at jscacco@truckeesun.com.