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Boat inspection program succeeds in fending off craft-borne hazard

Zebra and quagga mussels can destroy water environments, equipment and craft

Posted: August 12, 2013 6:18 p.m.
Updated: August 12, 2013 6:18 p.m.

Boaters pass several signs warning them of inspections on their way to Castaic Lake's launch ramp. Signal photo by Jim Holt

After close to three summers of boaters showing up at Castaic Lake — only to wait in sometimes long lines until inspectors prod and poke their Jet Skis and boats — not a single zebra or quagga mussel has been found, lake inspectors have reported.

In June 2011, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a $1.8 million project to fight the aggressive and invasive zebra mussel, which has infected waters from the Great Lakes to the Colorado River.

Since then, inspectors posted at Castaic and Pyramid lakes have been stopping every boater who shows up with a lake-bound vessel.

They’ve turned away close to 200 boaters, Marc Rodriguez, an inspector with the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation, said Sunday.

The zebra mussel — a non-native freshwater mollusk — destroys aquatic ecosystems once it gains a foothold in a body of water, causing millions of dollars in damage to reservoirs, dams, pipelines, power plants and boats.

Their tougher cousins are the quagga mussels, said lake Aquatics Manager Joe Walsh. “They’re like zebra mussels on steroids,” he said Sunday.

After three summers, county boat inspectors remain focused on what to look for so they don’t confuse the zebra mussels and their cousins with mud mussels, which call Castaic Lake home.

At the same time, they’ve softened in their approach to boaters eager to get onto the lake, Rodriguez said.

Boaters arriving at the Castaic Lake launch ramp drive by at least six posted signs telling them their boats must be absolutely dry — the concern being that zebra mussels might have hitched a ride on a boat arriving from another lake.

But what they often hear from boaters is that their boats are wet because they’ve just washed them.

“When we first started the program, that (boat washing disclosure) was cause for immediate failure,” Rodriguez said. “But now that we’ve been doing it for a while, we try to be a little bit more reasonable.”

On Sunday, Jet Ski enthusiast Javier Castro of Oxnard spent 15 minutes watching Rodriguez pull apart his water craft searching for the destructive hitchhiker.

“It’s much shorter than I thought it would be,” he said of the inspection. “I thought it would take half an hour.”
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt




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