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Invading clams in chilly Tahoe are slow to reproduce

New research by scientists at the University of Nevada, Reno found that cold temperatures and lack of food combine to discourage reproduction of Asian clams in the lake.

"This could be good news. It really could be," said Sudeep Chandra, a UNR researcher specializing in freshwater science.

"The fact is Lake Tahoe has a few things going for it when it comes to this invasive species spreading around," Chandra said.

Diminished ability to reproduce could mean that efforts to manage clam populations — including killing them by covering clam beds with rubber mats — have a better chance at long-term success, Chandra said.

"The question is, at what rate do they grow? If they are outgrowing what you manage, the problem will keep coming back," Chandra said.

Lake Tahoe boating season successful; decontaminations double from 2009

Regional officials are touting the effectiveness of a comprehensive watercraft inspection program in preventing the introduction this year of aquatic invasive species into the pristine waters of Lake Tahoe.

Watercraft inspectors managed by the Tahoe Resource Conservation District, in cooperation with Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, performed more than 8,000 boat inspections during the 2010 boating season, officials revealed this week, and a total of 19,000 watercraft launches occurred with Tahoe-specific inspection seals.

Of those numbers, 11 watercraft containing aquatic invasive species were intercepted and decontaminated, officials confirmed

Warning: Don't eat much fish from Donner Lake

Health officials on Thursday warned fisherman who catch brown trout and lake trout in Donner Lake, near Truckee, to eat no more than one serving per week of those fish.

Human beings and beavers can peacefully co-exist

Human beings and beavers can peacefully co-exist, Tahoe wildlife advocates said during a recent community forum, and Placer County officials agreed, vowing to explore alternatives to hunting and killing the animals.

Co-existence is especially practical since the recent advent of many Tahoe-based water flow control devices and techniques which successfully manage flooding hazards and damage to property associated with beavers and their dam building.

Water flow control devices, culvert protection fences, tree fencing and the use of cayenne pepper on tree trunks are some of the many management techniques used nationwide as a means of preventing the nuisance and hazards associated with beaver ponds.

Environmentalists remove aquatic weeds from Emerald Bay

Environmentalists are declaring victory after a population-growth control technique successfully eradicated most, if not all, remnants of an invasive aquatic plant from part of the floor of Emerald Bay near Swim Beach. Using a similar technique to kill invasive Asian clams, a partnership of local environmental agencies installed large swathes of bottom barriers to curtail the growth of Eurasian watermilfoil in Lake Tahoe.

In June, a partnership including Tahoe Resource Conservation District, California Department of Parks and Recreation and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency placed more than 8,500 square feet of bottom barriers, according to Kim Boyd, Invasive Species manager at the conservation district.

Invasive Species Battle at Lake Tahoe Expands

Feb 13, 2010
Reporter: Associated Press
Email Address: news@kolotv.com

TRUCKEE, Calif. (AP) - Conservation officials in the Sierra Nevada are expanding their efforts to combat invasive species at Lake Tahoe to other lakes and reservoirs in the area.

The Tahoe Resource Conservation District will work with local officials and conservation groups this summer to try to keep quagga and zebra mussels out of Donner and Independence lakes as well as Stampede, Boca and Prosser Creek reservoirs.

"It's in everybody's best interest," said Dave Roberts, manager of the conservation district. "If (invasive species) get into one of those lakes, it'll be that much harder to keep them out of Tahoe."

The effort is being funded through a $231,000 grant from the Truckee Meadows Water Authority, the Reno area's water provider. The agency is trying to protect the Truckee River, the Reno area's major water source.

All boats must undergo an inspection before entering Tahoe in an effort to keep invasive mussels out of its pure, blue waters.
Roberts said while officials ultimately hope to expand boat inspections to the other lakes and reservoirs around Tahoe, many details still need to be worked out.

A series of meetings will take place throughout the spring to work out logistics of the pilot inspection program, he said.

"We thought we could take our experience in the Tahoe Basin and share it in the region, and ultimately have universal inspections," he told Truckee's Sierra Sun newspaper.

Nevada County Supervisor Ted Owens suggested one place in the Truckee area where boats would be checked, then given a sticker to show they're clean when they show up to launch at one of the area's lakes.

"I've gone through the rigors of launching a boat in the lake," Owens said. "We have to make it user-friendly, perhaps create a universal inspection point."

Roberts said the $231,000 could pay for six full-time inspectors for the summer.

"So far the inspections have been extremely well received. Locals understand the risk involved with invasive species," Roberts said.

No quagga or zebra mussels have been found in Tahoe or any other area lakes or reservoirs. But if they become established within Tahoe or elsewhere in the area, they could massively disrupt aquatic ecosystems.

One federal study says a mussel infestation could cost Tahoe's economy $22 million annual in lost tourism and property tax revenue.

Onetime Nevada Brothel Could Become Conservationists’ Oasis

Published: December 14, 2009

SPARKS, Nev. — Watching bulldozers pour crushed rocks to force the Truckee River into a more natural serpentine pattern, Mickey Hazelwood, project director for the Nature Conservancy, mused that like many acts of salvation, this one has its roots deep in sin.

For decades, this high-desert site eight miles east of Reno was best known as the home of the Mustang Ranch, the first licensed brothel in the United States. From thin to plump, dwarflike to Amazonian, women hired to suit a range of tastes would line up for inspection by clients in pink stucco buildings tucked into a cottonwood grove 300 yards from the river’s bank.

The brothel reopened a few miles downriver in 2006, after the land was confiscated by the Internal Revenue Service and the name and buildings were sold to the highest bidder. Working 12-hour shifts at their new complex, part of which was airlifted from the old site, the women still greet customers in knee socks, push-up bras and other intimate wear.

The old property, meanwhile, is undergoing a transformation. Workers are restoring it to floodplain, undoing the damage wrought when federal engineers straightened the Truckee River a half century ago.

For most of its recorded history, the Truckee meandered lazily 110 miles from mountainous Lake Tahoe through Reno, once a floodplain, to the great basin in Nevada. Dense forests grew at its banks, and 20-pound cutthroat trout swam its length.

But as rivers tend to do, the Truckee would flood. In Reno, where the population had been steadily growing since 1900, and passed 50,000 by 1950, the effects could be devastating. So in the next decade, the Army Corps of Engineers moved to control flooding by straightening and widening the river. The unintended result was that the Truckee deepened in its own channel, and the entire water table dropped along its banks.

Within years, the lower Truckee lost a majority of its native plants as well as dependent birds and wildlife. Only ancient cottonwoods with deep roots survived. Invasive weeds took over, and the river became an eyesore. More threatening to local residents, water quality declined.

Without the plants and with increased surface area, the river was also heating up. Its capacity to absorb treated waste water from the city declined and threatened to choke Reno’s growth. As city officials grew worried, the Nature Conservancy began peddling an ambitious plan that included moving the river back to its old beds, exterminating invasive weeds and replanting forest and other native plants along the Truckee’s banks.

In 2000, the $20 million effort to restore an 8 ½-mile stretch of the river began. The old Mustang Ranch is the final piece; bulldozers arrived at the site this month to begin forcing this stretch of the river back into a path constructed to mimic its old curving pattern.

Legalized prostitution, as it turns out, has made this parcel particularly promising to conservationists because it essentially kept development at bay, improving the chances of restoring the flora and fauna.

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$400K invasive species program to begin in mid-March

Saturday, February 21, 2009
The Associated Press

RENO, Nev. — Scientists are preparing to wage an all-out war against another threat to Lake Tahoe's famed pure waters: Asian clams.

The quarter-sized critters have turned up in numerous locations along Tahoe's southeast shore and prompted concern that they could pave the way for even more destructive invasive species such as quagga or zebra mussels. Scuba divers will be used in a $400,000 project designed to test ways to remove the clams. The effort, jointly funded by the federal government, Nevada and California, is scheduled to begin in mid-March.

"This needs to be done. We have to get our hands around the Asian clam problem," Tahoe Regional Planning Agency spokesman Dennis Oliver told the Reno Gazette-Journal. Native to Japan, China and Korea, the clams first turned up in the U.S. in the 1930s and at Tahoe in 2001.

The clams are suspected of releasing nutrients that fueled an algae bloom around Marla Bay on Tahoe's east s hore last summer. Algae growth threatens to turn Tahoe's blue waters green. But scientists are more concerned that the clams could promote an invasion by quagga or zebra mussels - mollusks already spreading across lakes and reservoirs across much of the U.S.

Decaying clam shells could boost calcium levels that permit mussels to become established, scientists say, and trigger major problems in the lake's ecosystem. Mussels could clog water intakes, attach to docks, litter pristine beaches and spread down the Truckee River, the Reno area's major water source, scientists say.

Those fears make the Asian clam a "serious threat" that can't be ignored, said Steve Chilton, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Former Nevada Brothel Site Targeted for River Project

Feb 14, 2009

RENO (AP) - A panel of local officials has approved a $7.2 million river restoration project at the former site of the infamous Mustang Ranch brothel east of Reno.

The Flood Project Coordinating Committee took the action Friday in its push to complete a long-awaited Truckee River flood control project.

Plans call for the river ecosystem to be restored to a natural condition on the land where the Mustang Ranch was located.

Improvements will include cutting new meanders into the river channel. When finished, the restored site will help floodwaters spread naturally over the landscape, improving fish habitat and boosting water quality.

The area is the site of Nevada's first legalized brothel, founded by Joe Conforte in 1971 and operated until 1999 when the federal government seized it after guilty verdicts against its parent companies and manager in a federal fraud and racketeering trial.

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Bark beetle threat looms in the Sierra

By Jeff DeLong • Reno Gazzette-Journal• December 1, 2008

Pockets of pines in the Mount Rose area and other stretches of the Carson Range are turning brown -- a disturbing sign that an insect assault that has decimated millions of acres of forests to the east could be headed for the Sierra. Whether that occurs or not, experts say, could likely depend on this winter's weather.

"The potential is there. If we continue with this dry weather, it could pretty much take over," said Gail Durham, forest health specialist with the Nevada Division of Forestry. What could take over is the mountain pine beetle, an insect smaller than a grain of rice that has already destroyed vast swaths of timber in Colorado and other nearby states.

"That little bugger has devastated a lot of property in the Rockies and in Canada," Nevada State Forester Pete Anderson said. "The potential is real high we could have a problem in the Sierra as well."

The threat looms as Nevada has begun to recover from another beetle infestation by the pinyon ips, which killed off millions of acres of pinyon pine until the attack began to slow over the past few years, Anderson said. But other bark beetles, particularly the mountain pine beetle, are waging war against western forests. According to a 2007 report by the Council of Western State Foresters, more than 7 million acres of timber contained dead or dying trees due to beetle assault, with another 22 million acres under the threat of significant mortality over the next 15 years. This level of bark beetle-caused tree mortality is the highest in recorded history, the report said.

Evidence that the problem could be happening locally surfaced in pockets of lodgepole pines around Mount Rose, at Heavenly Mountain Resort near South Lake Tahoe and in the Little Valley area between Reno and Carson City, foresters said.

"It's still at the very beginning stages but we're watching it very closely," Anderson said. "It's pretty grim."

A healthy tree can easily fend off attacks by a few beetles by secreting resin and essentially booting the bugs out of its bark. But when trees are unhealthy in overcrowded stands, particularly when stressed by drought, their defense mechanisms are weakened.

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