Mussels scare prompts boat inspections at State Parks |

Mussels scare prompts boat inspections at State Parks

Craft checks required to prevent spread of invasive species

Margaret Hair
Fishermen troll near the shoreline of Stagecoach Reservoir earlier this week. Boaters will face new regulations this season as Park officials attempt to stop the spread of zebra mussel, New Zealand mudsnail and Eurasian watermilfoil.
John F. Russell

At a glance

Steamboat Lake and Stagecoach state parks are stressing the need to arrive at boat ramps with a clean, dry vessel to avoid the spread of aquatic nuisance species. The Colorado Division of Wildlife offers these suggestions:

- Clean the hull of the vessel

- Drain the water from the vessel, live well and lower unit of the engine

- Dry the vessel, fishing gear and other equipment

- Inspect all exposed surfaces

- Remove all plant and animal material

The Colorado Division of Wildlife defines aquatic nuisance species as any "waterborne, non-native organism that threatens the diversity or abundance of native species, the ecological stability of impacted waters, or threatens a commercial, agricultural, aqua cultural or recreational activity." For more information about ANS, visit http://parks.stat.... Watch "Don't Move a Mussel," an informational video about zebra and quagga mussels, at http://wildlife.s...

— Boaters at Stagecoach and Steamboat Lake state parks will be required to submit their vessels for inspection before setting off on the water this summer.

An initiative by Colorado State Parks and the Colorado Division of Wildlife will require checks for zebra and quagga mussels and other aquatic nuisance species as part of an effort to keep the invasive water life from spreading.

“Once these things get into the lake, there’s no way to kill them off, and they spread rapidly,” said Matt Schuler, a park ranger at Steamboat Lake in northern Routt County. “They’re filter feeders, so they eat everything in the lake. The water will be clear, but there’s nothing in it.”

Certified inspectors will be on hand at Steamboat Lake boat ramps during weekends this summer, as well as at the Dutch Hill marina boat ramp during the week. The inspections are scheduled to start by Memorial Day weekend but could begin any time after the marina’s May 15 opening date, Schuler said.

Boat checks at Stagecoach will begin at 8 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, starting as early as this Friday, said Kathleen Fischer, senior park ranger at Stagecoach. Both parks are considered low-risk and are mussel-free.

Inspectors might ask boaters when and where they were last in a lake, Schuler said. If those answers hint at the boat being mussel-free, inspectors will do a sight check for the animals and run a hand along the boat’s hull to see if it’s gritty with mussel larvae.

“If they can’t find any signs of mussels, then they’ll let the boat go ahead and launch,” Schuler said.

Boats found with mussels will be decontaminated with hot water. A normal inspection takes less than five minutes; a more detailed check for a potentially infected boat takes 10 to 15 minutes, Schuler said.

Park rangers are stressing the need to show up at ramps with a clean, dry boat, Fischer said. Steamboat Lake and Stagecoach will allow boaters to enter the water if no inspectors are present. Anyone who wants a boat inspection at Stagecoach outside of scheduled hours can contact the park office, Fischer said.

In addition to wiping out native species, zebra and quagga mussels can pose problems to water treatment plants and boat engines. The small, hard animals tend to clump and clog in pipes and can “almost become like someone poured cement down the tube,” Schuler said. Damage from the mussels can be long-lasting, he said.

“Once they’re in the lake, there hasn’t been any known way to remove them from the lake. So it’s a major threat to Colorado waters,” Schuler said.

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