Donner Lake: Boat Inspections & Aquatic Invasive Species

The Town of Truckee has suspended progress toward mandatory watercraft inspections on Donner Lake after hearing claims from a single local individual that such watercraft inspections are unnecessary. This questionable assertion was apparently based on a concern for high costs and governmental intrusion. The Truckee Town Council unanimously suspended this progress toward mandatory watercraft inspections while they collect more data on the risks of invasive aquatic species to Donner Lake water quality. A multispecies risk assessment is being formed by an advisory council, but it appears likely that nothing will be determined until next year.

For information on the Truckee Boat Inspections go to

Donner Lake is a unique lake that most residents and visitors think should be held to the same high standards that Lake Tahoe enjoys. Scientifically and limnologically speaking, isolating a single risk factor (lake calcium levels, in this case) or individual species threats does a disservice to the scientific method, which esteems the consideration of multiple risk factors and a broad spectrum of threats. Boats are the primary vehicle for aquatic invasive species, and summer watercraft traffic has begun streaming into Donner Lake. Simple boat inspections greatly reduce the repeated introduction of plants and animals that don’t belong in Donner Lake.

Aquatic invasive species have devastated such lakes as Lake George, NY and the Great Lakes. Closer to home, consider Lake Davis, which has now been poisoned twice (1999 & 2007) at an estimated $16M. Consider that annual costs of Donner Lake boat inspections – which are grant funded, not taxpayer funded – are about $75,000 per year. When invasive species establish themselves, they disrupt native ecosystems, negatively impact recreation, decrease tourism, and thus hurt local economies. Once established, their eradication is costly and rarely successful, making it imperative to protect Donner Lake and the entire Truckee River watershed before invasives become a problem. Boat inspections are the most effective action that can be taken to prevent the introduction of invasive species.

Research has established that New Zealand mudsnails (Potamopyrgus antipodarum), for example, are not limited by calcium, and experiments have demonstrated that they can both survive and grow at high densities in the low nutrient, low calcium waters of the Truckee River. Milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) is present in Spooner, Tahoe and Martis Creek, and Donner has been categorized as high risk for it’s establishment. Asian clams (Corbicula fluminea), found in Donner in 2010, will have an unknown effect on the lake. Locals who are helping to conduct voluntary boat inspections are presently reporting that they have seen dirty suspect boats, but no decontamination station is set up to clean these boats.

Concerned? A letter to the Town from Mountain Area Preservation’s own aquatic ecologist, Lisa Holan, can be found here. You can write to Truckee Town Council  members about the importance of mandatory boat inspections to help protect Donner Lake from potential invasive species. Urge Tahoe Donner to perform boat inspections at their private marina, too (they are currently exempt and have expressed no interest in inspecting watercraft launched there – their GM’s email address is below).


Beautiful Donner Lake (and the Truckee River into which it flows) deserves mandatory boat inspections to help keep it healthy. People visit Donner because it’s a unique, beautiful lake. Visitors will surely understand a quick inspection to ensure that their boating experience keeps it that way for years to come.

Town Council Members

Carolyn Wallace Dee –

Patrick Flora –

Dr. Mark Brown –

Alicia Barr –

Joan Jones –

Town Manager Tony Lashbrook –


Tahoe Donner General Manager

Robb Etnyre –


Comments are closed.