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Invasive mussels could cost millions

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The $176 million Nacimiento Water Project could be facing an expensive threat from an animal the size of a quarter—quagga mussels, an invasive, rapidly multiplying species that could clog up the project’s pipes if it gets a foothold in the lake. None have been found in SLO County to date.

“If we’re trying to deliver water downstream and [our intake structure in the lake] is plugged up, we’re in a world of hurt,” project manager John Hollenbeck told the Board of Supervisors on June 24.

Because the tiny invaders are carried on boats from infested lakes, an extensive boat decontamination system was set up two months ago at two other water-supply reservoirs, Lopez and Santa Margarita lakes. But Lake Nacimiento, while in SLO County, is owned by Monterey County, and leaders there so far have not taken any action to keep quaggas out.

Supervisors called for an emergency meeting with Monterey County decision-makers and staff to resolve the issue.

“This is a threat to our quality of life,” San Luis Obispo Mayor Dave Romero told the supervisors. “Almost every community in the county is affected.”

SLO county and city staff members are working together to develop an infestation response plan, with details of what steps would be taken if the mussels are found in a local lake.

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