Your Home Your story reservation CPW Launches Another Robust Boat Inspection Season for Mussels | Western Colorado

CPW Launches Another Robust Boat Inspection Season for Mussels | Western Colorado

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Colorado Parks and Wildlife is asking for boaters’ help to keep invasive mussels out of the water as another inspection season gets underway.

The new season marks renewed efforts by the agency to try to keep quagga and zebra mussels and other aquatic invasive species out of state waters, and prevent further events such as the zebra mussel plague that has ravaged Highline Lake in western Mesa County. The mussels were first discovered there in late 2022, making Highline the first watershed in Colorado to be infested with adult zebra, or quagga, mussels. Highline is closed to motorized boating year-round as the water level is lowered as part of an effort to kill the mussels.

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Rapidly reproducing invasive mussels can cover and clog reservoir and water infrastructure, damage aquatic habitat and cause problems on boats.

Parks and Wildlife has a robust boat inspection and decontamination program aimed at protecting state waters from infestations of mussels and other invasive species. Last year, agency staff conducted a total of 452,225 inspections and decontaminated 33,833 boats suspected of carrying mussels, other aquatic invasive species or standing water, according to a news release. Since the program’s inception in 2008, 7 million boats have been inspected and approximately 233,300 boats have been decontaminated.

Dale ShrullHighline Lake State Park employee Ryan Knight checks a boat engine for invasive mussels as hot water flows through it in June 2023. Dale Shrull

According to Parks and Wildlife, the state intercepted fewer than 20 mussel-contaminated boats each year between 2009 and 2017. Since 2018, more than 100 boats containing mussels have been inspected and disinfected every year. The majority of boats come from Lake Powell, the lower Colorado River or the Great Lakes.

Last year, 119 mussel-contaminated vessels were intercepted at inspection sites in Colorado, compared to 148 the year before, according to previous reports from the Daily Sentinel. McPhee Reservoir led the state in locations where boats were intercepted with invasive mussels, with 28, followed by 17 at Parks and Wildlife headquarters in Denver and 13 at Horsetooth Reservoir.

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Last year, 26 boats with invasive mussels were found at a pilot roadside inspection site at the Colorado State Patrol Loma Port of Entry, before the roadside inspection approach was shifted to other pilot sites last year. This year, Parks and Wildlife initiated its first-ever seasonal roadside inspection program at the Loma site on Interstate 70 and the Trinidad Port of Entry on Interstate 25, based on the two pilot-phase locations’ success in intercepting high-risk motorized boats from out of state.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife photo{span}An adult zebra mussel from Highline Lake. Invasive mussels cling to surfaces such as water pipes and cause billions of dollars in damage in the United States each year, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. {/span} Colorado Parks and Wildlife photo

The roadside checks take place Thursday through Monday through Oct. 31 and are mandatory for boaters traveling on motorized boats or personal watercraft on eastbound I-70 near Loma and northbound I-25 near Trinidad.

Through May 9, Parks and Wildlife staff had inspected 340 boats at the Loma Port of Entry this year, decontaminating 43 of them. In Trinidad, staff had inspected 112 boats and decontaminated 13.

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This year, state inspectors have already intercepted 11 boats carrying invasive species during mandatory inspections. The first of those cases occurred in Loma and involved a boat coming from mussel-infested Lake Powell, where eight of the 11 boats came from.

“As the challenge of protecting the state’s waters and infrastructure from water nuisance species continues to grow, CPW continues to lead the charge against these species,” Robert Walters, ANS Parks and Wildlife water nuisance species program manager, said in the news release. “And as boating season approaches, we are asking for the boating community’s help to combat invasive species in the state.”

Dale ShrullHighline Lake State Park had posted signs last summer about the presence of invasive quagga and zebra mussels to let visitors know that all boats and personal watercraft entering the lake must be inspected over the next five years, such as signs at the boat ramp, top and the entrance, above, stands. Additionally, all water enthusiasts who enjoy boating on the lake below will have their boats undergo a sanitization process before leaving the park. Dale Shrull

Parks and Wildlife says boaters should clean, drain and dry their boats after each use, inspect their trailers and examine hard-to-reach areas on boats and motors for signs of mussels. Anyone who has used a boat in waters outside of Colorado should tell boat inspectors.

Professional inspections are required for boats that have been in water that is out of state or positive or suspicious for aquatic nuisance species. Inspections are also required for boats approaching a boat control station or entering a body of water where inspections are required.

Funding for the state inspection program comes from boat registration fees. Some Colorado counties, municipalities, water districts, federal agencies and private companies also assist the state by conducting inspections. Parks and Wildlife staff also look for aquatic nuisance species by sampling waters across the state, testing 1,178 standing waters and 52 flowing waters last year. The intensive sampling resulted in the early detection of mussels at Highline Lake, Parks and Wildlife says.