Officials reverse decision on limiting Three Lakes boating inspection period |

Officials reverse decision on limiting Three Lakes boating inspection period

A pair of anglers prepare to wet their lines on Lake Granby in late October last year. A change in Bureau of Reclamation policy earlier this year meant boaters would be locked out of the Three Lakes after boat inspections ceased in mid-October but officials from CPW announced plans to extend inspections, and the boating season, on the lakes through Dec. 2.
File photo

Boat access on the Three Lakes region

There are currently four public boat ramps open on the Three Lakes though after Oct. 15 that number will drop to three, one on each of the three lakes. As of today boaters can launch at the Grand Lake Public Boat Ramp on Grand Lake, the Green Ridge Boat Ramp on Shadow Mountain Reservoir, and both the Stillwater Boat Ramp and Sunset Boat Ramp on Granby Reservoir. Inspectors operate from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. at all four ramps.

On Oct. 15 officials will halt inspections at the Sunset Boat Ramp on Granby Reservoir. At that time only hand powered and hand launched watercraft will be able to use the Sunset Boat Ramp. The other three boat ramps will continue to hold pre-launch boat inspections seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. up until Dec. 2.

Boaters will be able to access the waters of Grand County’s Three Lakes throughout the fall this year now that officials from Colorado Parks and Wildlife reversed their prior decision to limit the period for boat inspections.

State officials announced plans to now keep boat inspectors at three public boat ramps on the Three Lakes through Dec. 2. Inspectors were previously scheduled to cease operations in mid-October, at which time ramps would be closed. The inspection stations at Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Granby Reservoir will remain open longer due to an influx of funds from Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, according to parks and wildlife.

“This is excellent news for everyone,” said Elizabeth Brown, invasive species coordinator for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Fall access to these waters has been uncertain this year due to the significant threat of zebra or quagga mussels being introduced by watercraft. With the investment from Northern Water, in inspection and decontamination stations will remain open through the rest of this season, people can continue to enjoy the lakes a little longer.”

Northern Water provides significant funding for boat inspection programs in the Three Lakes region. According to Brian Werner, spokesman for Northern Water, the Front Range public water utility provided $83,000 this year for boat inspectors in Grand County. State officials have previously said the total cost of the annual boat inspection program in Grand County, including inspections on Williams Fork Reservoir and Wolford Mountain Reservoir, adds up to roughly $400,000.

“We think it is absolutely essential that we keep mussels out of our system,” Werner said. “WE have seen what happened down in the lower Colorado River Basin where they are spending millions of dollars annually. An ounce of prevention pays off down the road. We are doing everything we can to make sure aquatic nuisance species do not get introduced into the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.”

Werner noted Northern Water provides funding to Colorado Parks and Wildlife for the program and relies on the state agency to disburse the funds as needed.

“$83,000 is what we paid to CPW this year,” he said. “Then it is up to CPW how they dole that out. They were able to use that money to extend the season and we are happy with that.”

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has overseen and funded a boat inspection regime on the Three Lakes, as well as dozens of other water bodies across the state, for several years. Boat inspections typically begin in mid-May and end in mid-October. Historically boaters were still able to launch boats on the Three Lakes; Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Lake Granby, outside the standard five month inspection period.

That paradigm changed in 2018 though as ongoing concerns about potential infestations of invasive mussels prompted the Bureau of Reclamation, which has authority over the Three Lakes, to restrict boating access to the lakes outside the summer inspection period. The move caused consternation in local anglers and boaters who began lobbying Colorado Parks and Wildlife to extend inspections through the end of November.

Mike Evans, Grand County fisherman and founder of the conservation organization Ethical Angler, was one of several local residents who pushed for an extension of the boating program through November.

“All-in-all, I am happy,” Evans said. “I think the Dec. 2 date is a pretty fair shake. It is great compared with Oct. 15.”

Evans expressed thanks to Northern Water for the funding that made the extension possible, adding “they deserve some high fives on that one.”

While Evans was pleased with the move to extend boat inspections he noted that he and other area users of the Three Lakes hope to continue lobbying Colorado Parks and Wildlife for adjustments to the ongoing inspection program including a reconsideration of the hours boat inspectors are available. Evans said he and other anglers are also raising questions about the coming spring and when boat inspectors will return to the Three Lakes as lake ice begins melting.

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