Aquatic invasive species in Lake Chelan?

Are there Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) in Lake Chelan? No way, you might think. The lake is clear and cold so we are safe from outside problem species, right? It depends on who you talk to. If you base your ideas on your own observations or talk to other Lake Chelan Valley residents, you might decide that there are no problems.

Have you seen the little purple shells on the beaches along the lake? Some people think they are native to Lake Chelan. Well, they are Asian Clams and are not native to the lake. They are spreading across the United States causing millions of dollars of damage to power and water industries. Rod Anderson of the Lake Chelan Reclamation District states: “Asian Clams are a real nuisance and seem to be getting worse.” Lake Tahoe in California has Asian clams to the extent that walking on the beaches in swimming areas is painful, and many swimmers wear shoes.

We also have Eurasian Milfoil and Curly Leaf Pondweed. Adam Pfleeger of the Chelan County Noxious Weed Board states, “In the summer when the lake is full Milfoil is submerged, but abundant in the lower lake in certain spots.” Pfleeger also spoke about the threat of Flowering Rush, a Class A noxious weed found in the Columbia River and very difficult to control once it is established.

A worrisome newcomer is the New Zealand Mud Snail found in western Washington, and discovered in 2014 at a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fish hatchery on the Columbia River near Tri-cities. Mud snails are very small, reproduce rapidly and create problems. Their primary food source is aquatic insects, also the food source for game fish.

The most scary AIS heading west is the Zebra Mussel. Found in eastern Montana now, this AIS may be the primary reason for the boat inspection programs now in place in Montana and Idaho. There are now two boat inspection stations in eastern Washington. These bad boys really create costly problems.

So what can a person do about Aquatic Invasive Species? First, you might download the WDFW Invasive Species app, study the material and report AIS sightings. Look for other opportunities to do your own AIS research and become informed. Prevention and stopping the spread of AIS is the responsibility of us all.

When boating and recreating, follow these steps: CLEAN, remove all aquatic plants, animals, mud and wash everything; DRAIN, drain all water from your boat, trailer, tackle and gear before leaving the area, including your boat’s wells, bilge and engine cooling water; DRY, allow sufficient time for your boat to completely dry before launching in other waters.

Also, the Washington State Lake Protection Association’s annual conference is at Campbell’s Resort in Chelan this year. A group of environmental scientists who are analyzing the threat of more Aquatic Invasive Species are coming to Lake Chelan. They will be presenting a workshop on Wednesday, October 30 which will be free and open to the public. For more information go to the WALPA. org, or contact Chelan Basin Conservancy at phone number (509)682-3168 for more information. 


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