They’re no larger than a thumbnail but the quagga and zebra mussels are among the most damaging aquatic species to infest North American waterways. Fortunately, Colorado waters are free of the prolific bivalves and Colorado Parks and Wildlife wants to keep it that way as boating season opens. You’re watching “The Local News Network,” brought to you by The Payroll Department and Big O Tires in Cortez. I’m Wendy Graham Settle. Quagga mussels and their zebra mussel cousins have invaded waterways, damaged irrigation infrastructure, and devastated ecosystems in almost every state surrounding Colorado, including Durango haunts like Lake Powell. But so far, Colorado waters are free of the invasive species.
All of Colorado is free of any evidence of quagga or zebra mussel infestations, which is really good news. That’s a tribute to a program CPW, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has had for about 10 years to really do a lot of inspections at waters all over the state.
All motor boats and sailboats that launch on Colorado lakes first must be inspected for evidence of mussel contamination. If inspectors find evidence of infestation, boats must be decontaminated with a high pressure jet that sprays a stream of 140 degree water at 3,000 pounds per square inch. When boats come out of the water, they’re inspected to ensure that boats are clean, drained, dried and muscle free. For those that pass inspection after returning from the water, inspectors will attach a tag to the boat and trailer. Tagged boats will undergo a shorter inspection upon return to the launch ramp. Boats with standing water, ballast tanks or those that have come from out of state during the previous 30 days will undergo a more thorough inspection. Since the aquatic nuisance species inspections started in 2008, more than five and a half million boats have been inspected and 144,000 boats have been decontaminated, statewide. Last year as the pandemic started and most public venues were closed, boating launches increased by more than 55% on area lakes where motorboats and sailboats are allowed. Navajo Lake saw the greatest jump in use with an 86% increase in boat inspections compared with 2019. Vallecito experienced a 46% jump while McPhee saw a 34% increase and Nighthorse a 16% increase compared with the previous year. The numbers reflect both before and after boat launch inspections. Lewandowski urges the boating public to cooperate with authorities to ensure that Colorado waters remained free of the pesky critters and lakes remain open to boating.
We’ve been very aggressive with it because the reservoirs are mainly for supplying agriculture and they actually own the water. So, if they see an infestation, if they’re worried those agricultural producers, the water owners, could say, “We’re not going to have any more recreation “on lakes in Colorado, “because that’s the only way these mussels can get in here.” So that’s why we’re really pretty hard nosed about it. The good news is that people have been very cooperative over the years. We have had very few problems with people trying to sneak in or anything like that.
Boat ramps and inspection stations are open at Navajo Lake and Lake Nighthorse. The McPhee boat ramp opens on April 17th, and Vallecito Reservoir’s season is expected to start on May 1st. For more information about boating and inspections, visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website at cpw.state.co.us. Thanks for watching this edition of “The Local News Network” covering Montezuma, La Plata, Archuleta and San Miguel Counties in Colorado and San Juan County in New Mexico. I’m Wendy Graham Settle.