Warm weather arrived early this year in Colorado and officials with Colorado Parks and Wildlife are ramping up boat inspections at more than 85 sites around the state. The aquatic nuisance species boat inspections are mandatory at state parks open for boating and at most other boatable waters in the state.
“The good news is that we haven’t seen any new mussel discoveries since 2008,” said Gene Seagle, an aquatic nuisance species coordinator with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “But we can’t let our guard down and assume that problems don’t exist.”
Seagle added that Colorado inspectors have already decontaminated two mussel-infested out-of-state boats this year.
During the first weekend in April, inspectors at Chatfield State Park stopped a mussel-infested boat that had been purchased in Indiana and brought to Colorado. On Tuesday, April 10, inspectors at Lake Pueblo State Park inspected a boat that had come from Wisconsin and was carrying mussels from the Great Lakes region. Both boats were decontaminated before being allowed to enter Colorado waters.
More than 200 inspectors have already received training this spring with more training sessions planned before Memorial Day weekend, the official start of the boating season in the state. Trained inspectors will be stationed on boat ramps around the state throughout the boating season. Inspectors are watching for all aquatic invasive species such as zebra and quagga mussels, New Zealand mudsnails and Eurasian watermilfoil.
The inspectors also work to prevent the movement of water from lakes or reservoirs to other bodies of water as microscopic young mussels, not visible to the human eye, could be accidentally moved in live wells, anchor basins or other places on a vessel where water can accumulate. The aquatic nuisance species could do substantial damage to ecosystems, boats and water delivery systems in Colorado if they become established. These invaders typically can’t be controlled once they get introduced and have cost other states in the nation billions of dollars to continue operating water distribution systems to homes, farms and businesses.
The first significant aquatic nuisance species detection in Colorado occurred in 2007, with the discovery of zebra mussel larvae in Pueblo Reservoir at Lake Pueblo State Park. The Colorado General Assembly allocated funding for a large-scale prevention effort and Colorado’s aquatic nuisance species program has been operating for four years. Every year inspectors have stopped boats that were headed into Colorado waters with attached mussels, New Zealand mudsnails, rusty crayfish and invasive plants and weeds.
Colorado’s aquatic nuisance species program requires that all boats which have been in waters outside of Colorado must be inspected and receive a green inspection seal prior to launching in any water of the state. CPW staff encourages boaters to plan ahead to reduce delays due to boat inspections.
Inspection stations are also available at boating waters around the state, including one at Navajo Reservoir State Park. A complete list of inspection sites and hours of operation can be found at http://wildlife.state.co.us/Fishing/Pages/MandatoryBoatInspections.aspx.
Several short videos about aquatic nuisance species and boat inspections can be found at www.parks.state.co.us/NaturalResources/ParksResourceStewardship/AquaticNuisanceSpecies/Pages/AquaticNuisanceSpeciesHome.aspx.