Boat inspection program to stay
A potential invasion of zebra mussels has, hopefully, been forestalled for at least two more years in Colorado after state officials secured funding for the labor intensive boat inspection program for this summer and the next.
Earlier this spring the Sky-Hi News reported on the funding problems Colorado Parks and Wildlife was facing in regards to the State Boat Inspection Program. Under the program CPW hires boat inspectors to staff boat ramps at lakes and reservoirs throughout Colorado in an effort to prevent the establishment of invasive aquatic species, most specifically zebra or quagga mussels. In 2016 a boat inspector at the Stillwater Ramp on Lake Granby intercepted several mussels on an out of state boat headed for the lake.
The fate of the inspection program, and the accessibility of the lakes and reservoirs of the state for summer boaters, was in serious question this spring. The Aquatic Nuisance Species program, which employs boat inspectors throughout the state during summer months, was in jeopardy of ending after a Colorado Supreme Court decision last spring. In that ruling the State Supreme Court eliminated the severance tax payments Colorado Parks and Wildlife relied upon for the program.
The ruling last year was not related to the Nuisance Species Program but because the program relied on the severance tax funds for operational revenue the fate of the inspection regimen was in question. A state law passed in 2008 requires boat inspections and decontamination of all boats going onto the waters of the State. As such potentially closing the lakes and reservoirs of Colorado to recreational boaters was a potential reality. Fortunately though funding for the program has been secured through the 2018 summer season.
Elizabeth Brown, who heads up the Invasive Species Program for CPW, explained the funding for boat inspectors was derived from multiple sources. “For this year we raised over $1 million from contributions from external partners,” Brown said. “Colorado Parks and Wildlife funded the rest of the program.”
According to Brown a bill passed through the state legislature this year allowing CPW to receive funding for the boat inspection program from the general fund for 2018.
“We are still working on a long-term solution,” said Brown.
In Grand County funding for the program was split 50-50 between CPW and two entities who decided to contribute significant sums for inspectors on the Three Lakes. The U.S. Forest Service provided a $50,000 grant for the program while Northern Water contributed $130,000. Parks and Wildlife matched those contributions. According to Brown those funds are earmarked specifically for the boat inspection program on the Three Lakes, though she added both Northern Water and the USFS have contributed additional funds to cover boat inspector costs at other sites across the state.
“Obviously we are excited that we are going to have inspections this year,” said Hot Sulphur Springs Area Wildlife Manager Lyle Sidener. “The threat aquatic nuisance species bring to our waters is a threat to everybody involved, from the sportsmen and fishermen to water skiers and water providers like Northern Water and Denver Water. It is a huge risk and we need to have inspections to make sure we don’t end up with the same issues that are happening in other parts of the U.S.”
The boat inspection program on the Three Lakes began on May 19 and is scheduled to continue until Oct. 15. Boat inspectors will be receiving boats at multiple area boat ramps including: Stillwater, Sunset, Green Ridge and Grand Lake.
Inspectors will be at Stillwater boat ramp from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week. Inspectors will be at the Sunset Point Boat Ramp, the Green Ridge Boat Ramp and the Grand Lake Boat Ramp from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday. There will be no inspections or decontaminations performed at Arapahoe Bay Ramp.
State officials stated all ramps in the Three Lakes Region will have inspectors on duty from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the Fourth of July. Starting Sept. 11 all ramps will be operational from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
While funding for the boat inspection program was secured for essentially the entire State Brown noted there are two State Parks restricting boating on their waters. Harvey Gap State Park near Rifle and Mancos State Park near Cortez are both restricting boating to hand launched non motorized boats without trailers; allowing things like kayaks, canoes, belly boats, and SUPs.
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