Lake Tahoe, NV – Among the updates to Lake Tahoe Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) watercraft inspections this year are measures to increase speed and efficiency and to improve the boater experience while keeping risk of invasion and inspection fees low, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) announced today. The principle change to the watercraft inspections this year is the move of all inspections away from the launches and ramps to roadside inspection stations so that only boats with an intact Lake Tahoe inspection seal can use any boat launch.
Also new this season, high-efficiency equipment will speed wait times, inspection fees will be reduced or stay the same for most boaters and security will be tightened to further reduce risk of an invasive species introduction, according to TRPA Aquatic Invasive Species Program Manager Ted Thayer.
“The success of the AIS inspection program depends on reducing the risk of an invasive species introduction while serving the needs of boaters,” Thayer said. “Each year we look at the program and search for ways to improve both.”
The watercraft inspection and decontamination program operated by the Tahoe Resource Conservation District (Tahoe RCD) has a price tag this year of nearly $2 million, but most of the cost is carried by grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Boat inspection fees pay for about one-third of the inspection services and all currently sealed Tahoe-Only boats will pay $30 for a full year of AIS services.
The updated fee schedule was approved by the TRPA Governing Board Thursday along with code amendments intended to further reduce risk and tighten up the regulatory side of the program, according to Thayer. The new rules expressly prohibit providing inspectors with false information, tampering with inspection seals and launching a boat from a lakefront home without first getting an inspection.
One additional rule approved by the Board makes non-motorized watercraft and seaplanes subject to an inspection if requested by an inspector. While inspections for non-motorized craft such as kayaks, canoes and paddleboards will continue to be voluntary and free at all public launch sites, the new rule clarifies what can be asked of more types of watercraft should the need arise for a spot inspection.
Perhaps the most significant change to inspections this year is that all new inspections for unsealed boats will be carried out only at the roadside stations and only boats with an intact inspection seal can go directly to either private or public launch sites. This will speed up the experience for all boaters at the ramps, according to Tahoe RCD Outreach Coordinator Pete Brumis. Brumis also cautioned that boaters should always check the website and call ahead to know exactly when these changes are in effect and what services are available at specific locations. Boaters, paddlers and seaplane operators can go to www.tahoeboatinspections.com to learn where to go and what they can do to help stop the spread of invasive species.
“One of our overriding objectives is to provide outstanding service to boaters while protecting Lake Tahoe,” Brumis said. “Our program is used as a model by other water bodies across the U.S. because of its effectiveness and focus on getting boaters on the water.”
Tahoe RCD is adding higher capacity decontamination equipment as well as two additional roadside inspection stations to increase efficiency and reduce wait times during peak holiday weekends.
In addition to the roadside inspection stations at Meyers, Alpine Meadows, Northstar and Spooner Summit, new stations are expected to be operating in Incline Village and Homewood this summer. Boaters that already have an intact inspection seal can go straight to the ramp since most ramps are also selling the 2011 Tahoe Only inspection stickers. An inspection seal is simply a metal cord attached from the bow of the boat to its trailer that must be cut off in order for the boat to be launched. Tahoe RCD inspectors and staff at private launch facilities re-attach a new, uniquely –numbered seal each time a boat is pulled from the water.
Boaters are encouraged to call the inspection hotline at 1-888-824-6267 to find out the best place to purchase a 2011 sticker or to get a quick inspection before heading to the ramp, Brumis said.
Also, new to the lake this year will be an AIS stewardship program designed for kayakers, paddle boarders and canoeists called the Tahoe Keepers according to Thayer. Roving paddler inspectors will be on the lake helping educate and instruct non-motorized recreationists about AIS inspections and the need for all boaters to Clean, Drain and Dry their vessel and equipment no matter the size or type.
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, in cooperation with the Tahoe Resource Conservation District, is aggressively working to protect Lake Tahoe from the threat of aquatic invasive species. TRPA cooperatively leads the effort to preserve, restore, and enhance the unique natural and human environment of the Lake Tahoe Region now and in the future. For additional information, call Jeff Cowen at (775) 589-5278 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.