Wednesday, March 5, 2008

CMWD Board Closes Lake To Outside Boats

Mollusk threat to drinking water supply leads to 3-2 vote

By Daryl Kelley
Thousands of anglers will have to find another place to fish after directors of Lake Casitas, one of the nation's premier bass fisheries, but also the Ojai Valley's main source of water, voted Tuesday night to shut it down to outside boats for up to a year to avert a potential infestation of a destructive mussel.
Directors of the Casitas Municipal Water District voted 3 to 2 to ban outside boats from the huge reservoir, despite assurances from state officials that they were already doing enough to keep the lake mussel-free and pleas from dozens of boaters to work with them without the ban.
Effective immediately, the ban of outside boats still allows anglers to rent boats at Lake Casitas or to store their craft there for $80 a month if there is space.
An overflow crowd of nearly 300 showed up at Nordhoff High School Tuesday night, mostly to object to the proposed ban.
The crowd clapped loudly and responded with applause and shouts of approval when speakers supported keeping the lake open, and an occasional soft hiss when speakers wanted it closed.
After the deciding vote ended a three and a half hour hearing, some in the audience chanted softly "Recall, recall," a comment apparently aimed at the three directors who voted for a ban that will keep out most of the 26,000 boats that visit the lake each year.
Directors Russ Baggerly, Rich Handley and Pete Kaiser voted for the one-year restriction, while Jim Word and Bill Hicks favored a far shorter ban. Hicks said he wanted a 60-day ban to work out an air-tight inspection program and to set up a boat-washing device the state offered to provide. Word did not specify how long of a ban he favored, but he said state officials were apparently now motivated to address the problem more effectively.
"It's certainly good to hear the state agencies seem to be gearing up," Word said.
But Baggerly said he could not rely on state assurances that Casitas was already doing enough, especially since state officials had been dragging their feet in implementing a statewide anti-mussel program approved nine months ago. Repeatedly, Casitas officials have not even been able to get state Department of Fish and Game representatives on the phone to talk about the issue, he said.
"I can't go with that; I have to protect this water resource," he said. "We've got (the state's) attention. Now they're going to get off their big fat behinds and start doing something."
Terry Foreman, fisheries manager for the state Department of Fish and Game, acknowledged in an interview that the state had moved slower than he'd have liked.
"For the state to move, we have to have money," he said. "We've had a hard time coming up with sufficient money."
But he said officials from a number of state departments are going to meet within the next month with the aim of more effectively dealing with the mussel problem. At least $1 million more will be available, he said.
Of about 30 speakers Tuesday, only about a half dozen favored excluding outside boats. But one speaker said he was certain most local residents favored the board's cautious approach to protecting the water supply of about 60,000 residents in the Ojai Valley and Ventura and 6,000 acres of agriculture.
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 officials 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 cited the economic harm of a ban 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.
At the Tuesday hearing, Larry Elshere of Ojai said he'd conducted an informal survey of businesses, and found that they would lose about $1.8 million a year.
"It could be devastating," he said.
Ron Cervenka, who hosts bass tournaments at the lake, said fishermen have been the lake's greatest supporters and the board's best allies.
"Bass fishermen are not spreading quagga mussels," he said. "They're spreading the word about quagga mussels … Our anglers are ambassadors for you."
And another fisherman warned that closing the lake to outside boats might boomerang.
"If you close the lake, what's going to keep a disgruntled fisherman from infesting (it), so it doesn't have to be closed," said bass fisherman Tom Hutchinson.
Repeatedly, fishermen said there was no evidence that the mussels have been transported by boats in California. State officials say the mussels have infested eight Southern California lakes through a series of aqueducts, not by boat, although the initial infestation in Lake Mead was apparently from a houseboat moved from the Great Lakes area.
But some community members said an infestation would be much more expensive than a ban on outside boats, clogging the lake's waterworks and ravaging its ecosystem.
They 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.
"We're either going to have a lake that is infected, or a lake that is protected," said local resident Ralph Steele. "After the lake is protected and a workable decontamination solution is installed, the visiting boaters can be invited back."
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.
Two weeks ago, the Casitas 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 it.
"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.
"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.
Foreman, the state's fisheries manager, said Tuesday, in an interview, that it's not clear where the zebra mussel came from. But that it's possible that it was by boat, in a bait canister or by bird, although he said the possibility of its arrival by bird was extremely rare.
The zebra 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.
The quagga mussel's migration northward, after it was discovered at Lake Mead and Lake Havasu 14 months ago, has occurred in the sprawling canal system of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, they said.
And that's why Foreman said Tuesday that he thought Casitas was doing more than enough to staunch to mussel threat. "So far it's been water movement, not boat movement," he said.
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.
And in a report considered by the Casitas board Tuesday, the water district's staff said costs of an infestation here could be astronomical — to $1 million to $100 million, depending on whether a particularly devastating type of algae bloom associated with it develops.
"We can't afford this," said director Handley. "If the state can't handle it, then it's up to us five guys sitting here … We want to take a little breather … This lake is going to open up again. We're not advocating permanent closure."

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

And another fisherman warned that closing the lake to outside boats might boomerang.
"If you close the lake, what's going to keep a disgruntled fisherman from infesting (it), so it doesn't have to be closed," said bass fisherman Tom Hutchinson.


Advocating, even in an offhanded way, the contamination of a federal water supply (or any public water supply, for that matter) amounts to making a terrorist threat. A person making such a threat could wind up on a list of "Persons of Interest" down at the Department of Homeland Security or at the FBI. It's not much different than making a threat against an elected or appointed official. Such a person might also wind up on a "No Fly" list, and they could wind up having their activities and communications monitored.

It might feel as if one is fighting back at some perceived injustice by making such threatening statements, but the long-term effects on a person's life and freedom freedom might not be worth the 30 or so seconds of feeling powerful one obtained from threatening to destroy or endanger a public water supply.

If everyone actually cares about this lake, they need to prove it, even if proving it involves making some sacrifices. Everyone needs to do whatever it takes to keep it safe. Otherwise, the Federal Bureau of Reclamation just might decide to step in and close the lake to all entry, including all walk-in and drive-in uses, and Lake Casitas will just become a big off-limits reservoir. In that case, the local board would have to raise the water rates to make up for the loss of recreational revenues.

Rick Raine said...

Tom Hutchinson was not making a threat, only expressing a legitimate concern. Unfortunately, his entire statement is not included in the article. All he was saying is that there are people who could take matters into there own hands and deliberately infect Lake Casitas with the Quagga and asked if the Board was taking the necessary measures to prevent that from happening. Tom was very sincere with that concern.

Anonymous said...

Tom Hutchison is not the first person to have mentioned the possibility of intentional contamination of the lake; this kind of talk has been going on since the first mention of possible closure. Apparently, some people seem to think that this threat is their bargaining chip, or the ace up their collective sleeve. Unfortunately for them, this isn't a game of poker.

This - the threat of intentional contamination - is an idea that the fishermen ought to quit bandying about. It makes them look like wild-eyed radicals and vigilantes, and it puts them on a par with the kind of morons who burn down houses & car dealerships in the name of environmentalism.

As mentioned previously, it might make them feel less powerless to talk this way, but the net effect of such statements could be to cause the Federal government, the State, the County, and the Casitas board to agree that the only way to protect this public water supply would be to close the entire property to all public uses. The folks in charge are going to make their point, and that point is this: it's their job to protect the water supply, whatever it takes.

As far as all fishermen going out of their way to adhere to the rules without fail, would this include the fishermen who swim in the lake even though they know they're not supposed to be doing that? It appears that there are more than a few people who just choose to ignore rules that they don't like if those rules inconvenience them, and anyone who spends any time at or on the lake has probably seen them doing exactly that, and doing that for years. It's not just fishermen who do it, to be sure, but it's just as much of a sure thing that they are doing it along with the rest of the scofflaws.

The Board is well aware of the rule-breakers, too, and I'm sure that this has more than a little to do with why they feel they can't allow the security of the water supply to rest entirely upon the honor system.

Anonymous said...

It is bulls---t that they are only allowing the boats that are already at the lake. They need to close the lake to all boaters. As it is discrimination to only allow the few select who were there. They lied about being able to store your boat there. If they are approaching this as quality drinking water than the lake should have never allowed boating to begin with.

Anonymous said...

So, if your boat sank would you advocate sinking everyone else's boat, too, just to make things fair?

Anonymous said...

I guess I didn't say it right. They shut down the lake do to fears of contamination of the drinking water. The rental boats at the lake are the most filthy boats around. And by allowing only people who already had boats stored there kinds of makes it a private club.

Anonymous said...

Unless you're being intentionally obtuse, which is always a possibility, you need to read the article again.

Anonymous said...

If you call lake casitas you will be told that they are not allowing any boats in. There is not a waiting list. They are not allowing boats in Period. Call Ask 805-649-2233 ext# 7 Then tell me to reread the article.

Anonymous said...

You're right. They're not letting outside boats in.

The Quagga mussel causes a far worse water condition than anything Lake Casitas has ever faced. It kills everything in the water except for algae, and it makes the algae bloom like crazy. The Quagga mussel will kill all of the bass; all of the trout; all of the carp; all of the minnows; all of the frogs, and anything else that's part of the food chain in the lake. It also clogs up the pipes. It's so much worse than filthy rental boats that those boats aren't ever worth worrying about. The water filtration plant can take care of just about any kind of filth already found in the lake, but it can't deal with Quagga mussels because the Quagga mussels clog up the system.

People who store their boats at the lake might be privileged when it comes to fishing at the lake, but if they take their boats off of the property they won't be allowed to bring them back and put them in the water. In that respect they're not so privileged; they're stuck at the lake for a year unless they're willing to go and not come back.

As far as the fairness of all this: Life isn't always fair.

Anonymous said...

All a serious fisherman would have to do would be to have two boats. One to store at LC, and another to travel to other lakes. Not too much of a stretch.

Anonymous said...

The long-term upside to this is that this heavily fished lake is going to have a few months to recover, and maybe one of these whiney fishermen will actually catch the new world record large mouth that everyone seems to think could be in that lake right now.

Anonymous said...

The lake is going to have a meeting on wed the 12th not sure what time. To talk about getting some storage space opened up. The lake was dead this weekend.

Anonymous said...

What lake are YOU talking about being dead this weekend???? I was there today, Sunday, and there were quite a few boats out, including kayaks, lots of people fishing from the banks, tons of campers and the cafe was just as busy as it usually is?

Anonymous said...

Don't rock dsfancy's little boat. He likes to believe what he likes to believe.

James Hatch said...

How could such a small organism cause such a big problem? It sounds to me like science is once again getting in the way of common sense.

Anonymous said...

How could such a small organism cause such a big problem?

You mean a small organism like the AIDS virus and hantavirus, or the small organisms that cause diseases like genital herpes, hepatitis C, cholera, Ebola, drug-resistant tuberculosis and syphillis, anthrax, rabies, etc, etc?

Anonymous said...

Once again, the elusive James Hatch opens his mouth and shows his ignorance. What an idiot.

Anonymous said...

....Once again, the elusive James Hatch....

Not elusive enough for his own good, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

Hey...this is our DRINKING WATER. Thanks to Russ, Rich & Pete for their careful stewardship.

Anonymous said...

when your RATES GO UP do the loss of boating revenue do not come crying on here about it.

Anonymous said...

when your RATES GO UP do the loss of boating revenue do not come crying on here about it.

OK.

Next order, General Dsfancy. sir?