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Concerns Regarding Quagga Mussels in Lake Piru

LAKE COUNTY, CA — “It doesn’t bode well for Clear Lake or any other water body in California for that matter” says Lake County Water Resource Director, Scott DeLeon, in response to the discovery of Quagga Mussels in Lake Piru in Ventura County on December 18, 2013.

This is the first time Quagga or Zebra mussels have been found in a Southern California water body that does not receive water from the Colorado River, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“This is evidence that the mussels are going to continue to move to other bodies of water through boat movement, yet the State Department of Fish and Wildlife neither acknowledges Lake Piru was infested by a boat nor do they pursue a statewide effort to control boat movement from infested areas,” says DeLeon.

An invasive mussel infestation in Clear Lake could be devastating.  The ecosystem and tourism industry would be negatively impacted, but the higher financial cost could come about from the mussel-clogged water intakes, pumps, pipelines, and irrigation lines that use water from the lake. 

An infestation in Clear Lake and its surrounding lakes could have a huge impact on Northern California. Clear Lake empties into Cache Creek whose water is used for agricultural irrigation in Yolo County; Lake Pillsbury empties into the Eel River which could introduce invasive mussels into the Russian River; and Hidden Valley Lake empties into Putah Creek which runs through Lake Berryessa into Vacaville, Fairfield and the Suisan Marshes.  Both Putah and Cache Creek waters flow into the Delta and so an infestation in these creeks could ultimately infest the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys.

Although the downstream flow of water from Lake County could affect several other counties, it is the State of California’s stance that each individual water body is responsible for their own protection.  

In 2008, the County of Lake Department of Water Resources brought the Quagga mussel to the attention of the Lake County Board of Supervisors.  Four decontamination units were purchased almost immediately and a mussel sticker program was created.

Lake County currently has about 30 retailers who participate in the sticker program and approximately twenty state-certified inspectors.  Mark Miller, a member of the County’s Invasive Species Prevention team is available 24/7 to perform inspections.  His attitude is to get people on the lake as quickly as possible. “My goal is to make friends with the boaters, while keeping Clear Lake clear of mussels.”

The Lake County Invasive Mussel Program is funded through fees collected from the sale of mussel stickers, which totals approximately $45,000 a year. “This barely covers the cost of the supplies to print the stickers and our part-time extra help employee who is currently coordinating the program,” says DeLeon.   A Lake County resident pays $10 a year for their annual sticker, and a visitor will spend $10 per month on a sticker.  The retailer retains $7 of that fee, and the County receives $3 of the fee.

In 2013, Lake County performed 14,771 screenings, which are more than were performed at Lake Tahoe, with a fraction of the budget.

Miller also performs a monthly monitoring of the 20+ “traps”, artificial substrates scattered throughout Lake County’s lakes, in order to identify an infestation as soon as possible.  And the Department of Fish and Wildlife performs a plankton tow of Clear Lake twice a year at the request of the County to check for veligers, the microscopic larvae of invasive mussels.

"The need for Lake County to secure an ongoing revenue source is of paramount importance in order to set up a comprehensive line of defense to prevent the infestation of the Zebra and Quagga mussels,” says Anthony Farrington, Lake County District 4 Supervisor.

On January 28, 2014, the Lake County Board of Supervisors will consider a resolution calling for the placement of the Healthy Lake Sales Tax ordinance on the June 2014 ballot.  The ordinance calls for a one half percent increase in sales tax to be used exclusively for the lake. In November 2012, Measure E, a Sales Tax to Support Clear Lake, was narrowly defeated in the local polls. 

DeLeon says that invasive species prevention would be the top priority of funding received from that sales tax.  Algae, weed abatement, water-quality programs and the Middle Creek Restoration project are also priorities of the measure. 

No viable method of invasive mussel remediation has yet been developed for a body of water the size of Clear Lake if it should become infested.

For more information on Lake County’s Mussel Sticker program go to www.nomussels.com



Please contact Jill Ruzicka, Lake County Public Information Officer (707) 263-2580 or by email at Jill.Ruzicka@lakecountyca.gov for more information.