A prolific breeder that can destroy life-supporting algae and clog pipes and machinery, the mussels were first discovered in Lake Michigan in 1998 and are believed to have arrived in the United States from Europe in ballast water discharged from transoceanic ships. The infestation has since grown and, on Dec. 18, they were found in Lake Piru, about 10 miles northeast of Fillmore.
Taking no chances, the Santa Barbara County Parks Department announced that, as of Dec. 27, there is a two-week quarantine. However, boats with existing launch security tags can launch anytime at Lake Cachuma. Canoes and kayaks can launch if they pass an inspection and get power washed.
Meanwhile, the Cachuma Lake Marina & Boat Rentals has watercraft to rent, according to parks officials.
Lake Casitas, on Highway 150 east of Carpinteria, implemented a 28-day quarantine on Dec. 20, but it doesn’t affect boats that are compliant with the tamper-proof tag program in place.
The mussels have “devastating financial and ecosystem costs” if they’re introduced to a body of water like Lake Casitas, according to recreation area officials.
Lake Piru Recreation Area staff found the mussels and reported the discovery to the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. After genetic testing, they’ve been confirmed as quagga mussels, said Eloise Tavares, a department spokeswoman. The mussels found ranged from one-half to three-quarter inches long.
As a precaution, all boaters must clean, drain and dry their boats after leaving the lake, and while lake staff try to determine the extent of the infestation.
It’s the first time quagga mussels have been found in Southern California water that wasn’t fed by the Colorado River, according to the Department of Fish & Wildlife.
The mussels are native to Eurasia and have been found in 26 freshwater sources in California, mostly fed by the Colorado. They spread quickly and can attach to almost anything that’s been in an infested body of water, or from standing water that’s trapped inside boat engines or bilges, the Department of Fish & Wildlife says.