Fall boat ramp closures spark concern for local anglers
A recent policy change by the Federal Bureau of Reclamation has resulted in boat ramps across the Three Lakes region being locked when boat inspectors are not present. That decision by federal officials could have impacts on the accessibility of local lakes later this fall.
In August 2017, invasive Quagga mussels were detected in Green Mountain Reservoir south of Kremmling. Elizabeth Brown, invasive species program coordinator for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said officials believe the mussels reached the reservoir after a boat was illegally launched without being inspected. Boat inspectors in Colorado have already intercepted more invasive mussels so far in 2018 than were intercepted throughout all of 2017, according to Brown.
“The game has changed. The problem is getting worse and the threat is much greater,” she said.
Concerns over future infestations prompted the Bureau of Reclamation to implement a new policy this year at all reservoirs under their authority, which includes Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Lake Granby. That policy requires all boat ramps to be locked whenever boat inspectors are not present. Historically boaters in Grand County were able to launch boats onto the Three Lakes prior to and after the completion of the summer boat inspection season, which typically runs from mid-May through mid-October.
The bureau’s policy change cased consternation for many local anglers who realized their spring and fall fishing seasons could be cut short by the new policy.
“Up until this year the lakes were open access,” said Mike Evans, a local fisherman and founder of the conservation organization Ethical Angler. “Once the ice was off, the boaters had access to the lakes.”
When Evans and other anglers raised concerns with Colorado Parks and Wildlife about spring fishing access earlier this year, plans were put in place to initiate the inspection regime early. According to Brown, the inspection season was extended on the front end from the planned opening date of May 18 to April 20. Though the issue of boat access on the lakes this fall was not addressed at that time.
In early June, local representatives of Colorado Parks and Wildlife met with Evans and several other concerned community members to discuss the potential extension of inspections from the planned closing date, Oct. 14, through the end of November.
“The potential closure of access to the lakes is going to impact businesses,” Evans said. “It is the shoulder season. It may not make or break businesses but the economic impact of lake access is a significant factor.”
Brown said she has not spoken with local citizens concerned about fall access to the Three Lakes but is aware of their discussions with the county’s parks and wildlife office, saying she and other state officials are working to find a solution.
“We want to see maximum recreation,” Brown said. “But we have to protect the infrastructure. We are trying to do the same thing (this fall) that we did in the spring when we got things open earlier than planned. We are trying to keep things open later.”
No formal decision has been made yet, she said, but added that the goal is to stay open through the end of November.
“It will not be all the ramps and it will not be sunrise to sunset,” she explained. “But we want to provide access at one or two locations and we want to make sure the hours are set up right for users.”
Brown said a group of local stakeholders, including parks and wildlife, the Bureau of Reclamation, Northern Water, Grand County and the town of Grand Lake, are currently working with hopes of making a formal decision by the end of August. The state is also working on plans for next spring to again provide early access at some level.
“Ideally we would like to provide access from ice off to ice on,” she said.
Brown did not have specific figures regarding costs associated with extending the boat inspection program into the months of April and November, noting that the cost would vary greatly depending upon the number of ramps open and the hours of inspection operations.
“We are very solution-oriented right now,” Brown said. “I feel like we are going to get it done.”
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