Mussel inspection method lacking?

June 6, 2008

By KAREN VELIE

A tiny, invasive bivalve and a statewide drought of increasing severity are on a collision course in San Luis Obispo County.

Hoping to prevent an infestation of the Quagga mussel into local waters, the county Parks and Recreation Department has launched a counterattack that some observers suspect may be counterproductive. Those efforts also may be wasting water and financial resources.

The Quagga mussel is feared because of its propensity to clog water systems, wreak havoc on ecosystems, and create huge problems for water providers. It is transported from one location to another by sportsmen and their boats. But the method now being used in San Luis Obispo County to eradicate the pest may be either a well conceived solution or a knee-jerk reaction and a waste of county funds and vital resources.

The water-intense treatment of boats is intended to control the mussel, but some experts believe this unnecessarily wastes a large amount of water, and may be less effective than other treatments. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this week declared that the state is in the midst of a severe drought with no end in sight.

Boaters arriving at either Lopez or Santa Margarita lakes can expect to have their boat and trailer inspected. Inspectors reject boats found to contain standing water. Staff sends clean and dry vessels to a decontamination station, where the boats undergo two back-to-back 180 degree high-pressured power washes.

“That may be overkill,” said Fish and Game spokeswomen Alexia Retallack when asked her opinion of this county’s mussel prevention program. “We don’t come in and tell them what do.

“We advise inspectors to run their hands along the hull to make sure it’s dry and doesn’t feel like sand paper,” Retallack said. “Boats with standing water should be turned away.”

The department advises that boats leaving infested waters be power washed.

Retallack noted that some counties have begun requiring boats failing the inspection receive a power wash at the boaters’ expense prior to receiving permission to launch.

Other counties have chosen mussel-sniffing dogs to protect their waters.

“Studies show that one well-trained dog can save approximately 800 personnel hours per year,” according to the Department of Fish and Game’s web site.

Quagga mussels, which first came from the Ukraine, are already creating huge environmental and business problems on lakes and waterways in southern Californian. Boats from infested waters serve as transporters, and Quagga can survive five days in a warm and dry environment. Prevention is considered the best solution to protect water systems from an invasion.

“We are pulling eight full-time staff members from throughout the system,” said Deputy Director of San Luis Obispo County Parks and Recreation Pete Jenny. “The quality throughout the system has dropped somewhat due to the emergency.”

Jenny estimates the program’s annual costs to run $200,000 for salaries; $20,000 for equipment; and a minimal charge for diesel fuel and water needed to operate the power washers.

“We are trying to err on the side of caution,” Jenny added. “The cost to taxpayers will be hundreds of millions of dollars if they get in.”


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2 Comments

  1. ccn_debate says:

    Member Opinions:
    By: Anonymous on 6/17/08
    Hodin, once again you sophmorically beat someone with no facts, no knowledge and only vague "according to my sources" rhetoric. What is your solution to the problem? There are far too many like you who bitch and complain about anyone who attempts to solve something , while offering no useful information. Parks are trying to keep the lakes open for boaters (according to my sources). They get thier pensions either way. And to call this knee jerk would be accurate- most of the state has been behind the curve and SLO county at least put things inot high gear to stay ahead of the game. Please keep your pen and mouth out of the picture while others try to be useful.
    By: Anonymous on 6/14/08
    Back to the original point of the article…the visual inspection of boats, and then only letting CLEAN and DRY boats into the lakes is a proven practice, and makes sense. But then washing the same CLEAN and DRY boat is nonsense – what water-lifeform is going to be alive on a DRY surface? think about it. No fisheries authority or science-based research says to do this for CLEAN/DRY boats.
    seems like just a political show, and a waste of staff time, natural resources, and our tax dollars.
    Who agreed to this method in the first place? and do they care enough to stop doing something that doesn't work?
    By: Anonymous on 6/11/08
    Might be that it gets even worse than that, and we have to start asking people to leave. The only fair method for that is the newbies gotta go first.
    By: Anonymous on 6/11/08
    So the Quagga mussel can clog up freshwater pipelines like the arteries of a 90 year old fat man, thus denying growing communities the water they need. This results in reducing migration to and further development of our county, hmmmm… screw having a no growth Board of Supervisors. I say "welcome" Mr. Mussell, you can acomplish what Kurt Kupper, David Blakely, Evelyn Delany, Laurence Laurent, Shirley Bianchi, Bruce Gibson, and James Patterson couldn't; An end to growth in the county…
    By: Anonymous on 6/11/08
    So the Quagga mussel can clog up freshwater pipelines like the arteries of a 90 year old fat man, thus denying growing communities the water they need. This results in reducing migration to and further development of our county, hmmmm… screw having a no growth Board of Supervisors. I say "welcome" Mr. Mussell, you can acomplish what Kurt Kupper, David Blakely, Evelyn Delany, Laurence Laurent, Shirley Bianchi, Bruce Gibson, and James Patterson couldn't; An end to grow in the county…
    By: Anonymous on 6/9/08
    “We are trying to err on the side of caution,” Jenny added. “The cost to taxpayers will be hundreds of millions of dollars if they get in.”

    How prophetic.

    (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  2. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 6/9/08
    Some background:

    The state published draft mussel control measures in early 2007. This document described the history of the infestation, quantified the threat to the state water system, likely vectors, and potential control measures.

    In January 2008, the state published the final document. In April, (from my source) due at least in part to intense citizen pressure, County Parks met with other county departments to plan a response to the threat. The timing was driven by several factors: the closing of Casitas reservoir; the discussion to close Cachuma reservoir, and an upcoming multiple-day bass fishing tournament at Santa Margarita Lake, which is managed by SLO County Parks.

    This is key: the county had been dragging it's feet on this issue.
    Especially County Parks.

    Parks Director Pete Jenny is (from my source) planning to retire, and really did not want or need to deal with a crisis on the eve of his departure. So much for (lack of) planning!

    Caught with it's pants down, it is not surprising that the County over-reacts in order to give the impression that it is responding to a potential financial and parks use crisis. Those pressure washers were purchased only during the week before the fishing tournament. Employees were pulled off of other duties to inspect and clean boats & trailers. There is no facility for water recycling. It's all seat-of-the-pants, reactionary effort.

    Make no mistake, it is a potential financial crisis. What would be the cost of replacing the Nacimiento pipeline every 10 years? The cost of the Santa Margarita, Lopez, and Cayucos reservoir pipelines? My pocket calculator doesn't allow that many digits.

    My source tells me that the county believes that the mussel infestation is inevitable, and the associated control costs unavoidable. Yet they haven't budgeted for this contingency in previous budgets. Nothing for control measures. Nothing to slow or stave off a potential infestation and the associated costs of eradication or maintenance and replacement of affected infrastructure. Nothing for future pipeline infrastructure maintenance or replacement. There was no ongoing testing of the lake for the infestation (at least prior to May, '08). The thinking (apparently) was that the boat cleaning only needed to be done if the reservoirs were already infected with mussels.

    They may not be looking out for the county's long-term costs, but you can be assured that they are keeping an eye on their pensions and healthcare plans.

    By: Anonymous on 6/9/08
    talk about being anal…does that need a hypen too?
    By: Anonymous on 6/9/08
    This is a compound modifer and should have a hypen:

    From: well conceived solution

    To: well-conceived solution
    By: Anonymous on 6/6/08
    newsome…need to change your moniker to awesome
    By: Anonymous on 6/6/08
    (Eds: No need to keep my correxn post up)
    By: Anonymous on 6/6/08
    Eds:

    Last paragraph: "Err" on the side of caution, not "air." (Unless Jenny is is a better punster than I know, and referring to air-drying the vessels to protect against the mussels)

    (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down

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