Boat inspections keep local waters free of invasive mussels
Colorado’s High Country may look like it is still in the grips of spring but summer is right around the corner and that means boating season is officially upon us.
On May 1 state officials kicked off the summer boating season in Grand County with the opening of the Stillwater Boat Ramp on Lake Granby. Since then several other boat ramps across Grand County have been opened to the public. According to information from Elizabeth Brown, invasive species coordinator for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Grand Lake Boat Ramp was opened May 17 along with the Sunset Boat Ramp on Lake Granby and the Green Ridge Boat Ramp on Shadow Mountain Reservoir.
All four boat ramps are now available to launch motorized and trailer pulled boats and invasive species boat inspectors have been staffed at all four locations. Boat inspections can be conducted seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. throughout the summer, with the fall inspection schedule set to go into effect in early Sept.
Historically boaters were able to launch boats onto the waters of Grand County any time of year, even when boat inspectors were not present. However, beginning in 2018, federal officials began requiring that all boat ramps leading onto the waters of Grand County remain locked whenever boat inspectors are not present.
The boat inspection program is part of an invasive species prevention program operated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The program is primarily focused on preventing the establishment of quagga and zebra mussels, both of which are invasive species, in the waters of Colorado. Brown confirmed that currently no waters in Colorado are infested with either of the small bivalves. In 2017 12 juvenile quagga mussels were found in Green Mountain Reservoir. According to Brown additional searches were conducted that year that revealed no additional mussels. Follow up testing of the reservoir over the past year has yielded no additional mussels.
A private business, Rocky Mountain Recreation, is contracted by the state each year to provide boat inspectors in Grand County. That contract alone, which does not include any personnel costs derived from state or federal employees, is $468,000. That tally includes the cost of inspections at Williams Fork Reservoir along with inspections on the Three Lakes. Statewide the total program is roughly $4.5 million.
The inspection process itself is fairly simple though the amount of time required to complete an inspection can vary widely.
“If the boat already has a seal and a receipt it is a very fast process,” Brown said. “When folks leave (a lake) they can get a seal and a receipt. We encourage people to do that. It is a much easier process the next time they launch.”
If boaters do not have a seal and receipt on their boat then inspectors will conduct a full inspection. That typically starts out with a series of questions about when and where the boat last launched as inspectors work to determine if a boat is at a higher risk for potential contamination.
From there inspectors physically inspect the boat and the trailer it is on. They will pull the boat’s plugs and look at the boat engine and engine compartment. Inspectors will also be taking special care to view any area within a boat that naturally traps water, such as lives wells. If inspectors find nothing that concerns them and there is no standing water in the boat the boat will typically then be allowed to launch.
If inspectors do find anything that concerns them or if they find a compartment containing water that cannot be drained they will decontaminate the boat by flushing hot water into the compartments. Once that is completed boats are allowed to launch.
“It can be as quick as 30 seconds with a seal and a receipt,” Brown said. “Or it can be a pretty long process, especially if they have a bunch of ballast tanks.”
According to Brown there were 3,084 inspections conducted on Grand Lake last year, 4,500 on Shadow Mountain Reservoir and 12,600 on Lake Granby. That figure includes boats that were inspected on their way into the lakes and on their way out as well.
On Sept. 8 the summer boating season will come to a close in Grand County and our local lakes will shift to the fall inspection schedule. Under the fall inspection schedule all four ramps will shift operational hours and will provide inspections from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Sunset Boat Ramp will remain open through Oct. 13. The Green Ridge Boat Ramp will remain open through Oct. 31.
The Grand Lake Boat Ramp will remain open through Nov. 17. The Stillwater Boat Ramp, on Lake Granby, will be the last boat ramp in Grand County to shut down for the winter. The Sunset Ramp is scheduled to remain open through Dec. 1.
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This summer’s potential for record-breaking recreation in Grand County comes down to simple math.