The invasive mussels are shown at the local reservoir. They were discovered in early 2008, the first known presence in California.

With all the talk lately about water cuts due to the ongoing drought in California, it begs the question about a local resource that is being left untapped. What is going on at San Justo Reservoir?
The reservoir near Hollister has been closed since 2008 due to an infestation of zebra mussels, the non-native species brought in from the outside that can do serious harm to water systems and pipelines. Federal authorities have been extraordinarily cautious, almost snail-like, in treating the local reservoir. Once a popular destination for visitors, particularly fishermen, San Justo is turning into a retirement resort for a population of posh zebra mussels inhabiting it.
That Bizarro World reality means San Benito County residents will experience yet another summer without a popular destination spot, and there is no real end in sight for this disaster to the local economy and local outdoorsmen’s slate of fishing options. Unfortunately, this is a common theme in recent years, complacency from federal authorities regarding impacts after closing outdoor destinations such as San Justo Reservoir and Clear Creek Management Area—also closed in 2008 due to the Bureau of Land Management’s insistence that the asbestos levels are unsafe despite shaky science anchoring the agency’s case.
It’s time for the federal government to stop ignoring the problem at San Justo and move ahead on a permanent solution. After all, there are an abundance of examples throughout the nation when it comes to treating zebra mussel infestations, which are notoriously tough and costly to address. It’s a challenge, but it doesn’t mean the feds should basically put San Benito County’s tourism destination on a shelf and let it sit collecting dust, mostly because this area has relatively little political influence.
Congressman Sam Farr does deserve credit for continuing his efforts to reopen Clear Creek through legislation, as he recently introduced a bill aiming to do just that. Farr should bring a similar level of urgency to the table with San Justo Reservoir. The congressman has shown a willingness to listen when this county speaks up, so perhaps it’s also time for locals to get louder about the problem.
It has been more than seven years. There is no light at the end of this tunnel. Simply put, San Benito County residents deserve better.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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