Wolford Reservoir mussel program shows zero tolerance
SKY-HI DAILY NEWS
No zebra or quagga mussels have been found in Wolford Mountain Reservoir, and officials want to keep it that way.
“We were tested mid-August for the larva and it came back negative,” said Jeff Miller, Wolford Recreation Facility Concessionaire. “Right now, we’re understanding that it is a mussel-free lake.”
More than $15,000 was spent on a program this fall to ensure boats don’t transport mussels into the lake, and Colorado River Water Conservation District has budgeted $60,000 to keep the program running next year, he said.
The program pays for inspectors, salaries, supplies, contamination vessels, signage, education and training. The road near the inspection area also had to be widened.
The Department of Wildlife donated decontamination vessel equipment to Wolford this year, but the district could have to purchase the equipment next year. A contamination vessel is a high-pressure washer that produces hot water. It costs between $8,000 and $20,000, Miller said.
If an inspector is not at the gate, a phone system is set up so people can call for an inspection and a worker will be there within 10 minutes. Once they pass inspections, they are allowed through the gate. The program started this fall to set up equipment, work on flaws and see how they could improve this fall, he said.
“Based on the contamination of these other lakes I think it was a good move to start the process as soon as we could,” he said. “You need to have a zero tolerance inspection program ” it only takes one (mussel).”
Inspections will be ongoing until Nov. 1, when the boat ramp is closed.
Inspectors do a visible inspection for mature mussels. They examine boats’ livewells, motors and bilge areas before they are allowed on the lake, Miller said.
“We ask them to make sure that they drain their boat and clean and dry it as best possible,” Miller said. “If everyone did that, we’d probably have a good chance of keeping it out of our lakes for quite some time.”
Mussels migrate while in that larva stage and are microscopic. If someone doesn’t drain their livewell or motor they can be “easily transmitted,” Miller said. “You have a hard time catching them in the larva stage ” they’re microscopic. They can stay alive in a water solution as long as it meets their environment. They can stay alive quite a while.”
If boats are wet or mussels are found o they are decontaminated. This takes 15 to 20 minutes. Inspectors spray the boat with 140-degree water. The hot water kills mussels. So far, Wolford has done about four decontaminations.
When boats get off the lake, a Wolford label is tagged between the boat and trailer.
The boat can then come back to the reservoir without going through inspections again.
“That basically tells us they haven’t broken that seal,” Miller said.
Mussels can ruin a fishery and affect population. They compete for the same food source as fish do. Clog pumping systems. And they if collect in boat motors they can prevent water from cooling the engine, he said. “There’s a lot of damage they can do and they have no predators ” nothing likes to eat them.”
The reservoir is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Saturdays and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Next year the inspection program will run from May 1 to Nov. 1.
“Every boat is inspected,” Miller said. “So far, it’s worked out great. We’ve had good comments from the fishermen.”
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