With summer here, all eyes are on the water. Truckee-Tahoe’s lakes, creeks, streams and rivers are a beacon for nature-lovers looking to enjoy the warm weather and longer days. Too often, our enthusiasm for fun in the Sierra drowns out a quieter voice in our heads reminding us to protect this special place. We all know to not litter and be responsible with fire, and many of us do our part. But we can’t lose sight of another environmental threat lying just below the waterline.
Aquatic invasive species – including weeds, fish and shellfish – threaten to turn the Sierra’s famously transparent waters a murky, disgusting green. This isn’t a warning for the future; it’s a priority for today. Two species of aquatic invasive weeds, Eurasian watermilfoil and curlyleaf pondweed, have already infested over 150 acres of man-made lagoons on Lake Tahoe’s south shore, plus more than 100 acres in Lake Tahoe itself. Floating mats of green weeds are not what you want to see in our Jewel of the Sierra.
To Keep Tahoe Blue, the League to Save Lake Tahoe is leading the fight against aquatic invasive species – and the community has an important role to play. Scientists agree that tackling aquatic invasive species is just as urgent as curbing climate change, pollution, and wildfire.
Aquatic invasive weeds have a knack for making themselves at home where they’re not welcome. They crowd out native species, alter underwater habitat, and reshape food web dynamics, making the Lake hospitable for more damaging invaders like fish and clams. Combined with waters warming due to climate change, they also encourage hazardous algae blooms, which can make the water toxic for humans and our furry friends.
Together, we can tackle the threat before it changes the lakes and creeks we cherish; all it takes is five minutes and a smartphone. Eyes on the Lake is a Keep Tahoe Blue volunteer program to identify and report sightings of aquatic invasive species. The League to Save Lake Tahoe and our partners use the data provided by volunteer “citizen scientists” to track invasive species and quickly snuff out new populations.
Since its start in 2013, Eyes on the Lake has detected and helped remove seven invasive species infestations in Lake Tahoe. Beginning this month, we’re excited to expand Eyes on the Lake into Truckee, thanks to a generous grant from the Martis Fund, a collaborative project of Martis Camp landowners, DMB/Highlands Group (the developers of Martis Camp), Mountain Area Preservation (MAP), and Sierra Watch.
Bringing Eyes on the Lake to Truckee is an important step. People regularly use different lakes and streams in the region. Unknowingly, a boater, paddler or angler can transport an invasive stowing away in their gear. But once you’re equipped with the knowledge to identify invasive species, and the free Citizen Science Tahoe App to report sightings, you can be part of the solution. Visit keeptahoeblue.org/eyes to watch a short training video, download the app and get started today.
While you’re paddling, swimming or lounging at the shoreline, keep your eyes out for aquatic plants. When you spot one, pop open the free Citizen Science Tahoe app, scroll to Eyes on the Lake, and report what you see. It’s a quick, convenient and meaningful way to “protect while you play.”
Throughout the summer, the League will also offer virtual trainings for you to learn more, along with opportunities to survey lakes and streams at risk for infestation. Getting involved in Eyes on the Lake is the perfect way to better understand and protect the places you love. We can’t wait for you to join the crew. See our schedule at keeptahoeblue.org/events.
Together, we can protect our waters from aquatic invasive species and Keep Tahoe Blue.
Darcie Goodman Collins, PhD is CEO of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, also known as Keep Tahoe Blue.