The Zebra and Quagga mussels pose a major threat to California’s water supply, flood control, and power generation. The mussel infestation has already damaged aquatic ecosystems in the Great Lakes region, costing the public billions of dollars. Water managers fear that Lake Tahoe could be at threat.
“We must do everything we can to protect our waterways and keep our water supply safe,” said Assemblymember Das Williams. “This bill will allow communities across California to act earlier to prevent mussel infestation and respond quicker to the significant problems they create.”
Once established in a body of freshwater, these mussels latch onto pipes, valves, screens, irrigation canals, and gates, often in quantities that severely impede the movement of water and the operation of other water management infrastructure. They also multiply rapidly and devour food supplies for native life in our lakes, disrupting the food chain.
AB 2443 establishes a fee increase on freshwater vessel registration that would be used to assist local governments in protecting vulnerable waterways from non-native Quagga and Zebra mussel infestation. The bill would require the Department of Boating and Waterways to determine and impose a reasonable surcharge on recreational boat registration fees. Recreational boats often spread the Quagga and Zebra mussels.
Local officials praised the decision.
“The Cachuma Operation and Maintenance Board was an early supporter of AB 2443 and we are thrilled that Governor Brown has signed it into law,” said Lauren Hanson, president of the Cachuma Operation and Maintenance Board, and board member for the Goleta Water District. “It will offer significant help to everyone working to protect California’s waterways from invasive mussel species. Over 200,000 people on the Santa Barbara South Coast rely on Lake Cachuma for their drinking water. This bill, written by Assemblymember Williams, is a wise and economical way to help to protect this vital drinking water source and all California waterways.”
Existing state law bans the transport – both intentional and unintentional – of Quagga and Zebra mussels. Up until now, local governments have not had the resources to adequately prevent or respond to the threat of the mussel infestation.