Boat inspections begin May 20 |

Boat inspections begin May 20

Tonya Bina

The Colorado Division of Wildlife has not found any confirmed evidence of Zebra mussel life in the Three Lakes Area since microscopic organisms were found a few years ago.

“There hasn’t been a positive test result since 2008,” said local DOW Aquatics Biologist Job Ewert, who heads up local efforts to control the invasive species.

Each year when the lakes reach about 54 degrees, DOW crews capture plankton to find signs of the species. Larva can be found long before colonies of adults since a few adults can produce hundreds of thousands of larvae. A few years ago, veligers – the larval form of zebra mussels – were found in the Three Lakes of Grand County.

But annual testing since that discovery has come up negative, Ewert said. Dive teams have also spent time searching for adult colonies, but have not found any.

After five years of no positive results, the DOW would downgrade lakes from “positive” to “suspect.”

It’s the hope of aquatic biologists that the mussels may not be resilient to high altitude lake conditions.

The veligers found in Granby reservoir and Grand Lake were found “in the highest elevation place in the whole world,” Ewert said.

A short growing season, cold water temperatures and a lack of calcium may mean the mussels won’t survive, or at least flourish as they do in lower elevation lakes.

“It’s really hard to say,” Ewert said. “It’s not a situation that has happened before.”

Regardless, lake inspections are continuing, with DOW stations at area boat ramps starting this Friday, May 20.

DOW officials remind boaters to ensure boats are “clean, drained and dry” when transporting from one fresh water body to another. Water in live wells can slow inspections considerably.

Zebra mussels and their cousins the Quagga mussels are native to the Black Sea and Caspian Sea, though have been moved to numerous locations in Europe and North America, according to the species profile on the Colorado Division of Wildlife website. The species can wreck aquatic food chains and destroy fisheries by consuming nutrients, ruin boats by jamming equipment, cause motor damage, clog intakes for water treatment, and replace sandy lake landscapes and beaches with millions of sharp shells.

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– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext.19603.