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March 27 town hall will introduce new community-driven detection program

People living along Lake Chelan are encouraged to participate in a new community program that aims to teach people how to spot aquatic invasive species (AIS) such as quagga mussels, a non-native mussel that can quickly destroy an ecosystem.

On March 27, project partners will introduce a voluntary monitoring effort called the Citizen Science Early Detection and Monitoring Program. The town hall event is 5 to 7 p.m. at the Chelan Fire Hall, 232 E. Wapato Ave. in Chelan.

Chelan County Natural Resources, in partnership with the nonprofit Keep it Blue: Lake Chelan, will speak on this new stakeholder-led effort as well as give an update on the voluntary watercraft inspection pilot program that kicked off last summer and will begin its second season in May.

“In speaking with local landowners, we’ve learned the community wants to take a more active role in helping keep the waters of Lake Chelan pristine,” said Lisa Dowling, a natural resources specialist with Chelan County Natural Resources. “Adding a community monitoring effort to our voluntary boat inspection program just makes sense. We have an active and willing community that has a deeply vested interest in the lake.”

Significant concerns about the impact AIS may have on the long-term water quality of Lake Chelan have arose in recent years, following an AIS assessment that concluded Lake Chelan is at a high risk for invasive mussels. Chelan County has been working with the Lake Chelan Watershed Planning Unit to address the threat of invasive mussels, stopping the spread of AIS and implementing a program tailored to fit the unique social, economic and ecologic environment in Lake Chelan. Should such invasive species as quagga and zebra mussels become established in the lake, it would likely cost millions of dollars to mitigate and cause irreversible damage to the local ecosystem.

“We know tourism is the primary economic driver for Lake Chelan and the region,” Dowling said. “But these AIS detection efforts reach beyond tourism. The lake provides irrigation water to our local ag producers. Residents depend on the lake for domestic water use. Our efforts need to focus on not only visitors to Lake Chelan but also those who depend on it year-round.”

Informational cards have been mailed to more than 1,000 landowners and managers along the lake, inviting them to attend the March 27 town hall. A future training then will be held on May 4 to teach interested people how to spot an invasive mussel and report it.

Dowling encourages people, especially those living along the lake’s shores, to join in efforts to keep Lake Chelan’s waters blue.

“The mussels would likely be transported in their juvenile stages when they are only about the size of a pistachio,” Dowling said. “Spotting them is going to take some training, not to mention a good eye.”

Last Updated: 04/03/2024 10:14 AM

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