LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) -- Beneath the pristine blue waters of Lake Tahoe is a rapidly growing species of Asian clams threatening the water clarity and even out-competing native species for habitat.
A team of researchers from UC Davis and the University of Nevada, Reno first noted the Asian clams in Tahoe's Marla Bay in 2007, where in some areas, there can be up to 3,000 clams in one square meter.
The clams have since made their way to Emerald Bay in Tahoe's south west shore and are threatening the water and beaches there.
Timothy Caldwell, a researcher with the University of Nevada, Reno, says, "It's important for us to control this population before it can spread up to a variety of other places."
A team of partners from the Lake Tahoe Aquatic Invasive Species Program has started working on the largest Asian clam control project in the history of Lake Tahoe, with plans to treat an area of up to five acres at the mouth of Emerald Bay.
A team of divers is laying down miles of rubber mats, augmented with organic material made of Aspen trees. The idea is to suffocate the clams and stop them from being able to reproduce.
The mats will be in place for one year, and during that time, researchers will monitor how the clams are responding. If the project is a success, they plan to carry this procedure out throughout infested areas of the Lake.
The total project cost for the Emerald Bay Asian Clam Control Project is $810,000.
The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, through the California State Water Board's Cleanup and Abatement Account, is funding $458,220.
The remaining funds are provided by the federal government through grants made possible by the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act. Of that amount, $298,000 is in a science grant, administered by the US Forest Service.
The project is only funded through 2014; however, researchers say Asian clams have already been spotted in Donner Lake and are likely in the Truckee River, as well.
What about eating the Asian clam, you ask? Well, according to Kristi Boosman, Public Information Officer with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the Asian clam is an edible aquatic invasive species, but simply put: Asian clams are just too tiny. The clams only grow to be about 1.5 inches in size and are tasteless.
Those involved in the Asian Clam Control Project have had no businesses interested in commercially harvesting the clams because they are so small.
If there are folks out there who would be interested in harvesting the clams as a business venture – like the invasive Crayfish species – they would WELCOME that option.