(Above photo: After an inspection Cachuma Lake Chief Plant Operator Tom Drewers pressure steams the exterior of the boat.)
Come on in. The water’s fine – for now. But those expecting to cruise around Lake Cachuma for the first time this season will find that their boat must pass through a series of checkpoints in order to make sure they’re not the ones who could spoil the lake forever.
Out of fear for the havoc the dreaded Quagga mussel could wreak on the various water-transporting pipes connected to Lake Cachuma, security measures began enforcement at the popular Santa Barbara County recreation spot today. The Quagga – a Ukrainian-born mollusk which can multiply exponentially and whose tendency to stick to flat surfaces makes it possible for them to block the flow of water – made for a hot topic at the March 25 meeting of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. The supes eventually decided that an outright ban on boats would deprive the county of the needed revenue generated by the more than 200,000 people who use the lake annually. Instead, a system that aims to blast the mussel larvae off boat surfaces with hot water and than mark vessels as Quagga-free was selected.
Parks Director Daniel Hernandez – whose department urged the Board of Supervisors to enact some means of protecting Cachuma – and 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone were on hand this morning to oversee the launching of the first boat certified by the county not to bear the taint of Quagga. And though that boater got to be the first to use the new launch ramp, he also was the first to pass through the anti-Quagga protocols. The series of checks now required for all Cachuma newbies may seem extensive to those unaware of the threat of mussel invasion, but it’s one that the county stands behind, especially since the lake supplies South County with approximately 80 percent of its water. Aside from waiting in line – which will presumably happen during warmer summer weekends – the entire process is estimated to take no longer than 30 minutes.
Now, all boats must be clean and dry upon entering the lake. All drain plugs must be removed prior to transport the day the boat is to enter the lake. All boats longer than 24 feet, all out-of-state boats, and all boats with registration addresses known to be near infected lakes will be quarantined on-site for two weeks before they can launch. All boats and trailers will be inspected and treated with a high-pressure wash of 104-degree water that should kill any mussel larvae. Finally, boaters must sign an affidavit declaring what previous body of water the boat was most recently used in.
Upon exiting the lake, boat owners can also apply for launch tags that can bypass this rigmarole for future visits to Lake Cachuma, but these only work if the boat does not enter another body of water in the meantime.
Lake staff mean business on this matter. One would-be boater was turned away this morning because his vessel contained water and was therefore ineligible to enter the wet goodness that is Cachuma.
For more information about Cachuma Lake’s anti-Quagga protocols, visit cachuma.com or call the information line at (805) 686-5054.