As part of ongoing efforts to control aquatic invasive plants, the Tahoe Keys Property Owners Association, working with the League to Save Lake Tahoe, is testing out new technology never used before in Lake Tahoe.
Called a bubble curtain, the device installed on May 12 creates a barrier of bubbles in the water column across the west channel between the Tahoe Keys lagoons and Lake Tahoe. Used in other locations around the world (including places with currents, tides and swells) to prevent debris from moving through an area—this is the first time this technology has been used to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive plants.
“An infestation the size of the one in the Tahoe Keys is not going to be solved overnight,” said Jesse Patterson, the deputy director for the League. “What’s exciting about this technology is that it offers a possible way to contain the threat to Lake Tahoe while we work on the long-term solution for the infestation within the Keys lagoons.”
The League has provided $6,500 in seed funding for this project and for equipment and software to monitor the infestation.
“This represents one of the most significant efforts in recent years to control the spread of invasive plants in Lake Tahoe,” said Andy Kopania, chair of the Tahoe Keys Water Quality Committee. “This is a real milestone in our ongoing efforts to control our weed infestation and protect Lake Tahoe.”
The aquatic invasive plants—primarily curlyleaf pondweed and Eurasian watermilfoil—have been found in warm, shallow waters around Lake Tahoe, infesting more than 90 percent of the Tahoe Keys 172-acre lagoons. Able to propagate by plant fragments, the Association has implemented numerous programs from skimming floating fragments on the surface to a boat backup station to dislodge fragments from boat propellers and water intakes, reducing their potential spread.
A length of perforated tubing snakes along the bottom of the east channel, fed by an air compressor on the shore to push bubbles in a sheet to the surface. Scuba divers installed the bubble curtain in a “V” formation to drive submerged plant fragments to the water’s surface, and then to the edges of the channel to ease collection and removal. An additional benefit of the bubble curtain technology is that it will trap the stray fragments without impeding boating activity.
The Association has also purchased two Sea Bins—autonomous devices designed in Australia to collect debris in the water—that will be placed on either end of the bubble curtain to capture and remove fragments as they are corralled.
“If this pilot proves to be effective, this will be a solution we can turn to for other infested marinas around the Lake,” said Patterson.
This project is just one of many ways the Tahoe Keys Property Owners has worked to address the infestation, building on decades of scientific evaluation and planning.
The League to Save Lake Tahoe is committed to finding solutions to Lake Tahoe’s most pressing challenges, including aquatic invasive species. To find out more about the League’s efforts and how to get involved, visit keeptahoeblue.org.
A diver installing the bubble curtain in the Tahoe Keys west channel May 12.