Don’t move a mussel, have boats inspected
Sky-Hi News/ Grand County, Colo.
Non-native zebra mussels – small barnacle-like mollusks with dark and light colored stripes and their look-alike relative, the quagga mussels – can clog pipes, valves, gates and any water-related equipment or surface.
They can ruin boats by jamming equipment, cause motor damage, and they can destroy fisheries by consuming nutrients, wrecking aquatic food chains.
They spread very quickly and 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.
It’s for this reason, trailered and motorized crafts will be subject to Colorado Division of Wildlife boat inspections at 200 locations statewide.
In 2009, inspectors checked more than 400,000 boats, conducted 3,300 decontaminations and intercepted 19 boats encrusted with invasive mussels entering Colorado from other states. This year, inspectors have already intercepted seven contaminated non-resident vessels, causing great concern for officials.
“Boats trailered here from other states pose the greatest threat to our lakes and reservoirs,” said Elizabeth Brown, DOW invasive species coordinator. “Any one of these encrusted vessels could have introduced mussels to a new location in Colorado. This is why it’s imperative that inspections continue and the boating community continues to support the watercraft inspection program.”
Boats launched on any Colorado lake or reservoir where mussels have been detected must pass an inspection prior to launching at a new location.
Colorado lakes and reservoirs testing positive for zebra or quagga mussels include Lake Pueblo, Lake Granby, Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain, Willow Creek, Jumbo (Logan County) and Tarryall reservoirs.
Biologists consider Blue Mesa Reservoir “suspect” for the presence of zebra and quagga mussels and monitoring and testing are ongoing.
In Grand County, most DOW boat inspections are available at public boat ramps seven days a week, starting May 14 throughout the summer.
When inspectors are absent, boaters must be responsible for cleaning, draining and drying boats before launching.
Boat inspections and high-power washes are necessary to prevent the non-native aquatic nuisance species from destroying Colorado lake habitats.
Mandatory inspections are limited to trailered watercraft.
Hand-launched crafts, including kayaks, rafts, canoes, sailboards and belly boats, pose a low risk for spreading nuisance species and may launch without an inspection. Owners of hand-launched craft are strongly encouraged, however, to adhere to Clean, Drain and Dry practices to further minimize risks.
Beginning in May, select DOW offices, state, federal, county and municipal reservoirs and a number of private marinas and boat dealers will offer state-certified inspections and decontamination services. Publicly operated inspection sites are free-of-charge and privately operated service providers are fee-based. Prices may vary among vendors.
Boaters are encouraged to obtain a “green” seal and corresponding receipt before leaving inspection sites.
Green seals validate prior inspections, allowing boaters to launch more quickly at reservoirs. Boaters who have completed inspections at other locations are required to stop at reservoir inspection sites to have seals and receipts verified, and to ensure vessels are clean and dry.
State law enforcement officers are also on the lookout for boats carrying mussels or other invasive species across state lines.
“Contaminated boats unlawfully entering Colorado waters is something we take very seriously,” said Jay Sarason, DOW chief of law enforcement. “Willful violations can result in vessel impoundment along with tickets issued to the operator.”
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