Colorado steps up efforts to monitor and prevent infestations of invasive mussels

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A boat coming into Lake Pueblo from Wisconsin on April 10 was contaminated with mussels. Another contaminated boat was stopped at Chatfield Reservoir earlier in the month…

“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.” More than 200 inspectors already have received training this spring with more sessions planned before Memorial Day weekend, the official start of the boating season in the state.

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

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.

“Each year we get better at conducting the inspections and boaters become more understanding of the need for the program,” said Elizabeth Brown, invasive species coordinator for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Inspectors are better trained than ever before and most boaters are showing up with their boats clean, drained and dried which gets them on the water faster.”

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.

Boaters who live in, or are traveling through, Denver, Grand Junction or Hot Sulphur Springs have access to advance inspections and decontamination facilities. These are located at the Parks and Wildlife Northeast Region office at 6060 Broadway in Denver, at the CPW Northwest Region office located at 711 Independent Ave. in Grand Junction and at the Hot Sulphur Springs Area Office, located at 346 Grand County Road 362. These stations are in service weekdays during regular business hours. Advance inspections at these facilities provide a secure green seal that will speed up the next inspection at boat ramps in Colorado.

Inspection stations are also available at boating waters around the state. 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 http://www.parks.state.co.us/NaturalResources/ParksResourceStewardship/AquaticNuisanceSpecies/Pages/AquaticNuisanceSpeciesHome.aspx

More invasive species coverage here and here.

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