Boaters should brace for stepped up quagga mussel inspections

Lake Piru photographed after February 2017 storms.

Boaters visiting either Lake Piru or Castaic Lake this summer should make time to have their boats inspected both coming and going as lake staffers intensify efforts to stop the spread of quagga mussels.

Lake Piru protectors are expected to hire fulltime boat inspectors this summer to help stop the spread of invasive and destructive quagga mussels.

The United Water Conservation District in Santa Paula was awarded a special $130,019 QZAP grant Monday with the hope no other body of water ends up like Lake Piru – infested with quagga mussels.

QZAP is an acronym that stands for Quagga Zebra Mussel Action Plan grant issued by the U.S. Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service.

Dan Watson
Quagga Mussels found in Lake Piru in December 2013. File photo by Dan Watson, The Signal

Using QZAP money district officials plan to hire “decontamination staff” at Lake Piru in a bid to stop the spread of quagga mussels, first detected at Lake Piru in December 2013.

“Lake Piru Recreation area is used by boaters from several surrounding counties within coastal California, boaters who typically visit many other lakes in southern and central California, including several that feed natural streams and others that are part of the State Water Project, such as Castaic and Pyramid Lakes,” UWCD General Manager Mauricio E. Guardado, Jr. said in a news release issued Tuesday.

“With the recent announcement that quagga mussels were found at Pyramid and Castaic, the challenges in battling the spread of the highly invasive quagga mussels have grown both in terms of expense and effectiveness,” he said.

A check Tuesday with staff at the Castaic Lake State Recreation Area revealed boats are already being inspected, both coming and going from the lake.

“We have not seen any actual quagga mussels,” Derek Elleri, lake aquatic manager for the Castaic Lake Recreation Area, told The Signal Tuesday. “But we’re presuming the lake is infested,” he said.

Quagga Mussels found in Lake Piru in December 2013. File photo by Dan Watson, The Signal.

In mid-December, at least six adult quagga mussels were found in the Angeles Tunnel, a connector between Pyramid Lake and Elderberry Forebay, two components of the State Water Project north of Los Angeles.

Being in the Elderberry Forebay on the western arm of Castaic Lake, however, is too close for comfort for local water officials.

On Dec. 16, Castaic Lake officials began inspecting boats leaving Castaic Lake, presuming the lake was already infested.

Elderberry Forebay is a small reservoir which was partitioned from Castaic Lake in 1974 to store water for pumped-storage hydroelectricity generation.

“We have to treat it as if the quagga is in the lake and that there’s a risk of spreading elsewhere,” Elleri said.

Entry and exit boat inspections are “more to protect other resources,” he said.

Quagga and zebra mussels are small, non-native freshwater mollusks that attach onto hard substrates and can cause damage to water delivery systems.

Quagga mussels infested Lake Piru in 2013, then infested Pyramid Lake late 2016.

Six months ago, before the mussels were found in Pyramid Lake, Guardado and his team opened a water discharge pipe at Lake Piru to inspect it.

“The pipeline was two inches thick with quagga mussels,” he said.


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