Boat inspections return to Grand County this spring
Lake ice is melting all across Grand County and Lake Granby’s Stillwater Boat Ramp is already open for business but as temperatures in the high country start climbing so does the danger that our local lakes will become breeding grounds for invasive bivalves.
For several years now state officials have been concerned about the potential invasion of Colorado’s water bodies by invasive species of mussels, specifically zebra and quagga mussels. The mussels, which are native to Ukraine but were initially found in the Great Lakes region in the late 1980s, can outcompete native species in the aquatic food web, clog boat motors and pumps and make water diversion processes more costly. Once they have invaded a water body they are virtually impossible to eradicate.
The mussels are kept out of Colorado’s lakes by a statewide boat inspection regime that requires all motorized boats launching on Colorado’s waters to first be inspected for mussels. The inspection process if free to boaters but the labor costs related to the program comes at a significant cost. Last spring state officials were worried about the future of the program after a state Supreme Court decision eliminated the programs primary funding source.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife, in conjunction funding partners like the US Forest Service, were able to secure funding for the program through the summer of 2018. On April 24 Governor HIckenlooper signed the Mussel-Free Colorado Act into law, which provides a stable long-term funding source for the program. The new law provides $2.4 million annually for the program and also requires Colorado’s boaters to purchase a $25 Aquatic Nuisance Species stamp for their boats, with non-resident boaters paying a $50 fee for their stamp.
The new regulatory regime imposes a $100 fee for the unlawfully launching of a boat onto Colorado’s water without an inspection. Additionally there is a $500 fine levied for the first time a boater knowingly imports invasive species into Colorado’s lakes.
According to Elizabeth Brown, Invasive Species Program coordinator for CPW, the Aquatic Nuisance Species costs roughly $4.5 to $5 million annually. Operation of the program within Grand County adds up to roughly $400,000 annually.
While inspections have already started at Stillwater Boat Ramp Brown said the remainder of the boat ramps in the Three Lakes region, with the exception of the ramp at Arapaho Bay and the Hilltop Ramp on Shadow Mountain Reservoir, would open on May 18. The ramp at Arapaho Bay and the Hilltop Ramp will both remain closed in 2018. State officials recommend boaters utilize the Green Ridge Boat Ramp or the Sunset Boat Ramp instead.
Brown also highlighted that all gates to boat ramps within the Colorado-Big Thompson Project will be closed and locked whenever boat inspectors are not on duty.
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The Colorado Department of Transportation has closed Colorado Highway 125 in Grand County while crews work to clear the route of mud, debris and snagged trees piled up on various bridges and guardrails.