Williams Fork Reservoir closed to boating because of zebra mussel fears | SkyHiNews.com

Williams Fork Reservoir closed to boating because of zebra mussel fears

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News

Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News

Denver Water, working with the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW), has placed a temporary no motorized-boating order for Williams Fork Reservoir and Lake Dillon to prevent the spread of aquatic hitchhikers, such as the zebra and quaaga mussels found to be invading lakes in surrounding states.

There are no plans to do the same for Wolford Reservoir at this time, according to Colorado River District spokesperson Chris Treese.

“We don’t have any plans to close the reservoir,” he said. “But we’re looking at what we need to do to protect the reservoir.”

And Grand County’s “Great Lakes,” Granby, Shadow Mountain and Grand lakes, are still open to motorized boats, according to Kara Lamb of the Bureau of Reclamation and Craig Magwire, District Ranger of the Sulphur Ranger District.

“We’re not anticipating any closures, but we’re working with recreation managing partners to see what the best approach would be,” Lamb said Thursday.

Working with Colorado Parks and Recreation, the DOW has launched a campaign to keep lakes safe from the invasion of non-native mussels, backed by funding power from Colorado Senate Bill 266, passed last week. The protocol of boat inspections is being sized up by agencies across the state for major Colorado lakes, according to the division, and a list of “high-risk waters,” meaning those with high traffic and marinas, is being compiled.

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Although the list is not yet completed, “probably, 20-30 lakes fall into that high-risk area,” said Jerry Neal, Division of Wildlife spokesperson.

Zebra mussels, small barnacle-like mullusks with dark and light colored stripes, and their relative, the quaaga mussels, can “clog pipes, valves, gates and any water-related equipment or surface. They can ruin boats by jamming equipment and causing motor damage, and they destroy fisheries by consuming nutrients and wrecking the food chain,” according to the Denver Water Web site.

They are non-native and can spread very quickly, having harmful effects to the environment. They attach themselves to boats and aquatic plants carried by boats, and when boats are trailered from lake to lake, the mussels spread to new fresh-water homes.

Tests have confirmed that microscopic offspring of zebra mussels, known as veligers, were found in Lake Pueblo in January, where 24-7 boat inspections have been established to help prevent further spread. The zebra mussel mostly has been found in lakes and rivers surrounding the Great Lakes and as far south as Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas. And quaaga mussels have been found mostly in western lakes, such as Lake Mead, and surrounding the Great Lakes.

In 1988 zebra mussels spread from Eurasia to the Great Lakes in contaminated ballast water, according to a Colorado State Parks Web site. They quickly spread to the Mississippi River, its tributaries and inland lakes, and their presence costs billions of dollars a year in national control efforts.

Boaters may not see a great change at Lake Dillon, according to Denver Water’s Manager of Recreation Neil Sperandeo, since the ice on Dillon is not yet off the lake.

Dillon Marina should have in place an inspection program, according to Sperandeo, by the time the lake is boater-ready. Motorized boaters will be required to launch at the marina rather than self-launching areas, he said.

But at Williams Fork, motorized boats will be forbidden to launch until an inspection system is put into place, sometime in July, Sperandeo said.

In the meantime, Williams Fork will only be open to hand-powered, non-trailered crafts such as canoes, kayaks and belly boats.

According to the DOW, before boats leave a lake or other waterway, boaters should:

– DRAIN the water from the boat, live well and the lower unit of the engine.

– CLEAN the hull of the boat.

– DRY the boat, fishing gear, and equipment.

– INSPECT all exposed surfaces.

– REMOVE all plant and animal material.

If a boat has been in zebra-mussel waters in Colorado, the minimum time a boat should remain out of water (after being cleaned thoroughly) before launching in uninfested waters is about 44 days, according to the 100th Meridian Initiative (www.100thmeridian.org), a national campaign in place to stop the spread of aquatic nuisance species.

And if all else fails, “Our answer is still garlic, butter and lemon,” Treese said.

” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@grandcountynews.com.

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