Thursday, February 28, 2008

Decision On Lake's Fate Due Tuesday

Quagga mussels have been found in lakes in San Diego and Riverside counties and it is feared that the difficult-to-eradicate invader might show up in Lake Casitas

By Daryl Kelley
Officials who oversee Lake Casitas, the Ojai Valley’s main source of water, are set to decide Tuesday whether to shut down the popular fishing destination to outside boaters or to simply maintain current inspections to keep a destructive mussel from migrating here.
Because of high interest, the 5:30 p.m. meeting has been shifted from the Casitas Municipal Water District headquarters in Oak View to the Nordhoff High School cafeteria in Ojai.
General manager Steve Wickstrum said water district directors will consider two main options: closing the huge reservoir to outside boats to ensure that a mussel does not infest the lake, or continuing the status quo.
Since the quagga mussel threat surfaced last year in San Diego and Riverside counties, the district has been checking boats for water or vegetation that could carry the mussel’s microscopic larvae and asking boat operators if their craft have been in infested lakes and excluding those that had.
Casitas directors imposed the boat inspections in mid-November, and Wickstrum said 158 of about 2,800 screened boats have been excluded, usually because they still carried water from other lakes.
In a series of recent meetings, dozens of boaters have asked Casitas directors not to ban outside fishing craft, citing the economic harm that would do since Casitas is a premier bass fishing lake. District staffers have estimated such a ban would cost the water agency more than $600,000 a year in recreation revenue while also hurting nearby businesses.
But some community members have said an infestation would be much more expensive, clogging the lake’s waterworks and ravaging its ecosystem.
They’ve asked for an immediate ban on outside boats, citing the billions of dollars agencies have spent in the Great Lakes region since 1988 to combat the invasive zebra mussel, a close cousin of the quagga, which apparently migrated to the United States aboard freighters from the Ukraine.
“The question is how much protection should we provide for Lake Casitas,” Wickstrum said this week.
Reacting to the same perceived threat, managers of Lake Cachuma have proposed closing that scenic Santa Barbara County reservoir to outside fishing boats. The issue is set for hearing March 11 before Santa Barbara County supervisors.
Whatever action the Casitas board takes Tuesday — and it could defer a final decision again — would be viewed in the context of the actions that board has already taken.
Just last week, the board asked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to declare a statewide emergency because of the mussel infestation, so California could qualify for federal emergency money to fight the problem.
“We are urgently seeking your leadership to help prevent an impending catastrophe stemming from an invasive non-native species that could destroy the water quality and cause an unprecedented escalation in maintenance costs for virtually every California resident and business,” said a letter to Schwarzenegger, signed by board President Jim Word.
“The mussel threat is of extraordinary magnitude because these mussels have been found to consume most of the food chain upon which many other species depend for survival,” the letter added. “The quagga and zebra mussels also may clog pipes of almost any diameter.”
The most likely way a mussel may be transported is by trailered boats, the letter said.
One large utility in the East Bay of San Francisco has already responded by banning any boat from Southern California or outside the state from its reservoirs. That move came in late January after a zebra mussel was discovered near Gilroy in San Benito County, just south of the Bay Area.
That discovery was the first for a quagga or zebra mussel in the State Water Project, an elaborate set of dams, canals and reservoirs that provide most of the water in the state.
It was also the first zebra mussel found in the western United States, officials said.
Both the quagga and zebra mussels are suspected of traveling from lake to lake by boat, although the quagga mussel’s migration northward, after it was discovered at Lake Mead and Lake Havasu 14 months ago, has apparently occurred in the sprawling canal system of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
The infestation of the zebra mussel in the Great Lakes area, discovered two decades ago, now costs utilities about $140 million a year to try to control and to clean encrusted facilities, Casitas spokesman Ron Merkling has told the board.
But in hearings about the issue, boat owners have made impassioned pleas to Casitas directors to explore all options before considering a ban of fishing and pleasure craft at the lake.
After a pivotal hearing in January, the board ignored pleas to immediately ban outside boats, saying it would take several weeks to gather enough information to make an informed decision.
At Tuesday’s hearing, the board will have better estimates of how much money lake closure would cost the district and the community, and how much it would cost Casitas to fight the mussel if it does arrive.
In addition to the two primary options — lake closure or maintaining the status quo — the board may also consider, the hot-water spraying of all boats entering the lake, adding storage for boats to be used only at the lake and increasing the number of rental boats for fishing.
So far, Casitas has taken a statewide lead in highlighting the mussel problem. And Wickstrum said state and federal officials are finally beginning to seriously address it too.
The federal Bureau of Reclamation owns many of the infested lakes in California and Lake Casitas Dam and Reservoir. And the state Department of Fish and Game, the lead California agency, is trying to implement a computer tracking systems to red-flag boats that leave infested lakes before they enter clean ones.
Seven California lakes are infested with the quagga mussel. One lake near Escondido has been closed to boats to prevent infestation.
Casitas Recreation manager Brian Roney has said he favors a “passport” system under which a sticker would be attached to a boat when it enters an infested lake, and which rangers at Lake Casitas could easily see. But he said that suggestion has not been acted on. Also, infested lakes in Arizona and Nevada would not be required to follow a California passport system.
While officials have said it is impossible to eradicate the mussel once it reaches a lake, a Ventura marine biologist distributed to the board at a January hearing a research paper by state of New York scientists that suggests progress in the fight against the damaging mussels. That report concludes that dead bacteria may be safely spread in lakes to kill mussels, once the voracious mollusk eats it.
Now, Great Lakes power plants and water distribution agencies attempt to control the mussels with chlorine and other poisonous chemicals, the report noted. But that has been challenged by environmentalists as a long-term solution, the report said.
Casitas Director Russ Baggerly, who brought the mussel issue to the board’s attention in October, said he’s already convinced that the board has to take its most restrictive option, because infestation would be a catastrophe.
“The issue really is very clear in my mind,” Baggerly said in an interview this week. “Protecting our water source is our primary goal as elected officials, and recreational boating is secondary. I will recommend an immediate temporary ban on outside boats.”


Anonymous said...

I have heard that they will be closing it.

Rick Raine said...

Nobody is discounting that the potential threat of the Quagga Mussel infecting Lake Casitas is a serious issue. There is alot of information on the internet available to educate yourself regarding this tiny little thing that can cause such a huge problem. The problem we're facing is not just the Quagga Mussel, but how we react to it.

Scientists have been working on the Zebra and Quagga Mussel for decades and have found ways to treat waters infected to control and eridicate them. The problem with the Great Lakes is is just the sheer size of them. Environmetalists have also hampered the attempts by scientists, even though the methods do not harm native species of fish and plant life. The article of which I am responding to is erroneous when it states that it is impossible to irradicate the mussel once a lake is infested. It is quoting "officials" but not stating who those. It has been scientifically proven that the mussel can not survive out of water. Now, I do not support this, simply because there are other methods to control and stop the spread of the Zebra and Quagga mussels, but draining a lake destroys them.

Again, I am not suggesting that this is a practical approach, I am only trying to highlight the hysteria regarding this issue.

This hysteria is what is driving the CMWD Board of Directors to make some poor choices. I have personally experienced the results of these poor decisions.

I am a customer of CMWD and have and so I have a personal interest in the water I pay. I am an avid fisherman and the primary reason for my moving here to the Ojai Valley is because of my love for Lake Casitas. Last year I was able to realize my dream and purchased a boat. I have been to only 2 lakes with it, Clear Lake in June of last year, and Lake Casitas. The last time I launched my boat was on Christmas Day at Lake Casitas. On Presidents Day, February 18, I went to the lake and was denied entry as the inspector found a minute amount of rainwater in the bilge. My boat was subsequently banned from the lake for 28 days.

I appealed this banning to the CMWD Board of Directors. Citing the scientific reports directly focussed on the Quagga and Zebra Mussels, had my claims of when and where my boat had been substantiated by others, the Board of Directors believed me and stated so. However, they would not lift the ban, one even stating "Life is not fair". Gee, what a revelation. In my 53 years I never knew that.

I found it interesting that the Board started the scheduled meeting by everyone citing the "Pledge of Alligience", which we all know concludes with "Liberty and Justice for all". I noticed in the audience that the was a young lady in attendance for an item on the agenda. What she heard and saw was was democracy at it's worst. Having proven my position, acknowledge by the Board that they believed me and the scientific data I submitted to them, they refused to rescind the ban based on a "one size fits all". They had an opportunity to correct a bad call, but refused to do so. It is like a game official clearly seeing on the instant replay that their call was bad, and instead of acknowledging it and rescinding the incorrect call, they stick to their mistake. Yes, life is unfair, but when you have an opportunity to be fair and right a wrong, in other words be just, and refuse to do so, your being part of the problem instead of the part of the solution.

The scientists say that the 27-30 day ban is only boats known to be moored in lakes infected by the mussels. Day users, like myself, should be dry for 7 days if launched in infected waters and boats should be dry for 5 days before being transported between non-infected lakes. My boat had been out of the water and dry for 55 days when I went to the lake. Again, the last time it was launched was at Lake Casitas. Now it's been out of the water and dry for 65 days and I still can't go to the lake with it.

The sitting Board has demonstrated that they are determined to close the lake down, regardless of what the scientists have proven in the laboratory. They are circling the wagons and have made their decision, regardless of what take place at the meeting on March 4. Russ Baggerly is quite clear on his position. Mr Baggerly is not a scientist, and if you look at his bio on the CMWD website, he is merely a businessman, as is the majority of others.

With the recommendations given by the scientists, Lake Casitas, and California in general, can be spared the further spread of these mussels. Educate yourselves and take the necessary steps to prevent the spread of not just the Zebra and Quagga mussels, but the New Zealand Mud Snail as well. If you don't, you will soon find the local backcountry closed off too. This invasive species is as much a threat to the ecosystem as the mussels. They are closer and spreading much, much faster. They are unknowingly by dayhikers, backpackers, RV's, SUV's, ATV's, parents, children and even the family dog.

Anonymous said...

From what I've seen so far, all of the hysteria is coming from the fishermen.

Take a chill pill and have a beer.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you need the chill pill. When did Russ Baggerly become a fisherman?

Anonymous said...

Yeah. The lake is all about catching fish, not drinking water, hmmm? The Bureau of Reclamation built the lake so that people would have a place to fish. You betcha.

The Board's job is to protect the drinking water, not people's hobbies. If the hobbies can coexist with the drinking water, fine. If not, the drinking water comes first.

The Board has the County, the State and the Feds behind them when it comes to protecting the water supply above all else.

Anonymous said...

"Yeah. The lake is all about catching fish, not drinking water, hmmm?" Without the fishermen who use the lake. Not only will lake casitas be without approximate 650,000 a year. But your local business who provide services to the fishermen who come to camp and fish. Our locals will suffer. It can be managed with boat inspections.

Anonymous said...

Between water and money, I think we'll all take the water.

Anonymous said...

I will take the money as I can still drink the water. Get educated on the muscles before you make your judgment. Do you really want the corner market, Shell Gas, just to name a few to suffer?

Anonymous said...

It doesn't really matter what you or I want. What's going to happen is going to happen in spite of what we say or think, and what's going to be done will be done to protect the water supply. It will be done to the exclusion of all other concerns, even if some people wind up being very unhappy about it. It would be too bad if local businesses got hurt because of the closure, but they'd get hurt a lot worse if they couldn't get any water at all because every piece of pipe in the Ojai Valley was clogged with tiny mollusks.

You or someone else on this thread took a swipe at environmentalists, but if it weren't for environmentalists you probably wouldn't have most of the places you love to go fishing, camping, hiking, etc. And, now you know how environmentalists feel most of the time. They wake up every day to the news that yet another place they treasure and cherish has been destroyed or is going to be destroyed, and that all of the destruction took place or will take place against their wishes and in the name of the almighty dollar. Welcome to the world of the people you seem to hate. What goes around comes around.