LAKE TAHOE — The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Governing Board approved an annual update to the Aquatic Invasive Species Watercraft Inspection Program during its January meeting. The approval keeps nearly all boater fees the same and improves efficiency of service at watercraft inspection stations around the Basin in an effort to keep the $1.4 million inspection program in the black, according to agency officials.
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The jointly-managed inspection program annually certifies more than 15,000 motorized watercraft as being free of invasive species before launching into Lake Tahoe to help prevent the introduction of non-native species that could devastate Lake Tahoe’s fragile ecosystem and native fisheries and impact boats and recreation areas.
The updates maintain hours of operation during the busiest boat inspection times at the five roadside inspection stations around the Tahoe Region. Inspection stations in Meyers, at Spooner Summit and Alpine Meadows will begin closing at 5:30 p.m. from Sunday through Wednesday this summer, but close at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. During 2012, less than 3 percent of inspections happened during those time periods, according to the TRPA report. Similarly, the Homewood and Northstar inspection stations will open only Thursday through Sunday and will operate from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Those two roadside stations will remain closed Monday through Wednesday.
While few boaters are expected to need service on the reduced days, watercraft inspectors encourage all boaters to plan ahead and to check tahoeboatinspections.com at least a day ahead of launching.
“Keeping the inspection areas open at the most convenient times for boaters is a vital aspect of our prevention efforts,” Ted Thayer, TRPA Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator said. “We appreciate the level of support and cooperation we continue to receive from boaters in keeping new aquatic invasive species out of Lake Tahoe waters.”
The only substantive update to the fee structure adds a $10 charge to decontaminate each special enclosed system on a boat, such as air conditioners, ballast tanks, bladders and live wells, according to TRPA.
Approximately half of the funding for the watercraft inspection program comes from a grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The other half comes from Lake Tahoe watercraft sticker fees and fees from inspection and decontamination services. Greater efficiency this year will help bridge a funding gap expected when some grants that have traditionally funded much of the program end this year. Establishing a sustainable funding source for this critical program is a top priority.
For current and complete information on inspections, sticker fees, and on how to arrive at the inspection station Clean, Drained and Dry, visit tahoeboatinspections.com.