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Official worry mussels might threaten lakes

County approves $1.8 million to further boat-inspection program aimed at destructive mollusk

Posted: June 3, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 3, 2011 1:55 a.m.

County officials have waged a preemptive war on a creature that could threaten both Castaic and Pyramid lakes.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved earlier this week a $1.8 million project to fight the aggressive and invasive dreissenid mussel, which has infected waters from the Great Lakes to the Colorado River.

“This is a major issue for our lakes,” said Hayden W. Sohm, deputy director of the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

The non-native freshwater mollusk destroys aquatic ecosystems once it gains a foothold in a body of water, causing millions of dollars in damage to reservoirs, dams, pipelines, power plants and boats.

“There are no quagga mussels, zebra mussels or dreissenid mussels in Castaic Lake or Pyramid Lake, and we intend to keep it that way,” said Hugo Maldonado, chief lake lifeguard for the department.

The quagga and zebra mussels are “cousins” of the dreaded dreissenid, which on their own, have caused multimillion-dollar infestation damage to pipes, pumps and other components of municipal and industrial water-supply systems elsewhere.

“They attach themselves to the inside of pipes and breed,” Maldonado said. “It’s just like an artery being clogged by too much cholesterol. They effectively shut down any transfer of water from one conveyance to another.”

A county boat-inspection program has turned away Castaic-bound boats still dripping with water carried from infected lakes, Maldonado said.

The $1.8 million approved Tuesday is expected to bolster that inspection program, making it more comprehensive and thorough.

“(The funding) is enough muscle to help fight the spread of these mussels in California,” Maldonado said. “These resources will allow us to inspect every boat, jet ski or any other watercraft permitted to launch at Castaic and Pyramid Lakes.”

The California Department of Water Resources will reimburse the county for the expense, according to the staff report.



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