2018 #COleg: HB18-1008 Mussel-free Colorado Act status update

Photo via Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

From The Summit Daily (Deepan Dutta):

Should the non-native quaggas infest the [Green Mountain Reservoir], millions in taxpayer money will be spent to ensure they do not clog or damage water infrastructure, as well as to prevent destruction of the aquatic ecosystem and the associated recreational fishing industry.

The danger posed by this critter is so high that Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, Summit County and other agencies are combining efforts to make sure the quagga does not wind up ruining the reservoir as it has other water bodies in Colorado.

Legislatively, a bill called the “Mussel-Free Colorado Act” dedicated to eradicating quagga and zebra mussels is well on its way to becoming state law. The bill requires boat owners to purchase an aquatic invasive species sticker on top of their regular boat registration to fund mussel prevention measures.

County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier has been following developments at the reservoir intently since last August, when the Bureau of Reclamation discovered quagga veliger, or larvae, in the reservoir. At the time, Stiegelmeier said she was furious with the lack of federal funding to pay for boat inspections preventing mussel infestation in the first place.

“Other reservoirs like Dillon Dam and Wolford are taken care of by the responsible dam owners,” Stiegelmeier said. “They pay for regular boat inspections before they get in the water, as they should. But the federal government reservoirs always contract out recreation and claim it’s not their job to making sure boats aren’t contaminated before they launch.”


Federal authorities were put on high alert and finally turned their attention to Green Mountain once mussel larvae was detected. Stiegelmeier said that it will be a much more expensive endeavor to try to ward off infestation after it starts.

“Once a reservoir is infested, the feds wind up having to pay many times as much to deal with the infestation,” she said. “Once the adult mussels get in there you can’t get rid of them. We have a huge number of reservoirs, like Lake Powell, that are infested. It costs an enormous amount of money to get mussels off the dam infrastructure, and it absolutely destroys the aquatic ecosystem.”

While samples at Green Mountain have come back clean since the initial detection, Bill Jackson, head of the U.S. Forest Service’s Dillon Ranger District, said that concern over quagga is far from over…

Jackson said that to prevent the infestation, the Forest Service and other agencies will monitor water at Green Mountain for at least three years — the maximum amount of time quagga need to fully develop. The agencies are also working to divert all incoming boat traffic to a single launch point at Heeney Marina, where they can be centrally inspected and decontaminated before reaching the water. Jackson said that one major risk factor for contamination was how many boats were previously launched from unauthorized areas along the shoreline.

“We had a lot of motorboat launches into the reservoir without proper inspection and decontamination,” Jackson said. “We’ve really been trying to make sure that we got on that right away to prevent folks from doing that.”

Jackson said that the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which gets some of the water from the reservoir, helped in providing rocks, boulders and other implements to block off the known boat entry points. He also said that signage will be put around the reservoir directing boat owners to proper launch points where they will be inspected and decontaminated before hitting the water.

In the months leading to boating season, Jackson said that a major collaborative project will be taking place to improve the inspection and decontamination process at Green Mountain.

The Bureau of Reclamation and other partners will help Heeney Marina to improve its boat launch facilities and parking to accommodate the large amount of boat traffic being funneled there. The Forest Service will do its part by allowing modifications to the marina’s permit for construction there, as it operates on Forest Service land.

The project will also require Summit County to help by closing down and improving the county roads leading into and out of the reservoir, as well as introducing more signage. Details of the project have yet to be released in full to the public, but Jackson said a press release is forthcoming.

Jackson added that they needed the public’s help in preventing contamination.

“If folks are not getting their boats inspected, that doesn’t help anyone, and we wind up dealing with the aftermath of cleanup efforts. Prevention is where we want to be.”

Jackson said that boat owners can help by following a three part procedure: Clean, drain and dry.

Click here to view the list of the West’s worst invasive species according to the Western Governors’ Association.

2018 #COleg: HB18-1008 Mussel-free Colorado Act status update

From KKCO:

A bill in the state capitol is aiming to cut down the chances there are for our bodies of water to be infested with an invasive species.

This bill is called the mussel-free Colorado act. It would fund Colorado parks and wildlife aquatic nuisance species program more consistently.

If passed into a law, a person living in the state would have to pay 25 dollars for a stamp. The stamp proves the boat has been inspected and it’s clean. A non-resident would have to pay 50 dollars.

That money would go to the department’s inspection program.

“We all have a stake in this to keep these species out of Colorado; whether that’s through a stamp or cleaning and draining and drying your boat or going through an inspection process,” said Mike Porras, a spokesperson with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The bill would also increase fines if you do infest any water. It’s currently 150 dollars but that would change to 500 dollars.

The bill will be heard next in the senate appropriations committee.

2018 #COleg: HB 18-1008 (The Mussel-free #Colorado Act) sails out of committee

One valve of Dreissena bugensis. Photo credit: Wikimedia

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

Colorado has done well keeping aquatic nuisance species out of its lakes and rivers, but that won’t continue to be the case if it doesn’t properly fund a program combating them, sponsors of a bill to raise fees to pay for that program said Monday.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is proposing establishing a $25 annual fee for a special boat stamp — $50 for out-of-state boaters — that would come on top of the annual boat registration fee the state already assesses on the more than 90,000 boats that use Colorado waters.

The fee is expected to raise about $2.3 million a year, which is about half of what the program costs, said Rep. Jeni Arndt, D-Fort Collins, who’s sponsoring the bill along with Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, and Sens. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, and Don Coram, R-Montrose.

“It’s better to have a sustainable source of income coming from the people who use the waterways to fund this,” Arndt told the House Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources Committee, which approved the measure 10-3…

While some state lawmakers said the bill didn’t properly address the program’s entire funding needs, others said the fee should be higher.

“I’m not a wild fan of fee increases or a large fan of government intervention; however, I can tell you that this fee amount is a compromise,” said Kellen Friedlander, who testified on behalf of the Colorado Marine Dealers Association. “Colorado registrations are still one of the lowest, so we’re not asking for something that’s … totally out of whack with other states. We’re still relatively inexpensive to register boats.”

Rep. Marc Catlin, R-Montrose, said it would be worse for Colorado’s rural economy if the state were forced to close lakes because of such nuisance species as the zebra mussel.

“If we are not successful at this … everybody is going to pay to get those little buggers off the pipes,” Catlin said. “I really think the state of Colorado has a serious problem, and if we don’t get with it we’re going to have one we can never solve.”

The bill also would increase penalties for boaters who fail to get inspected before launching, raising that fine from $150 for a first offense to $500.

2018 #COleg: HB 18-1008 (The Mussel-free #Colorado Act) introduced

Quaggas on sandal at Lake Mead

From The Loveland Reporter-Herald:

The Colorado legislature will consider a bill that would provide stable funding for Colorado Parks and Wildlife efforts to keep zebra and quagga mussels out of state waters.

The Mussel-Free Colorado Act (HB 18-1008) was introduced Jan. 10 in the legislature.

If passed, this bill will provide a funding source of $2.4 million for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) Program in 2019 and beyond by requiring motorboats and sailboats to purchase an ANS stamp.

Colorado residents will be charged $25 and non-residents will be charged $50.

The bill also would continue Tier 2 Severance Tax appropriations, when available, to cover the remainder of the $4.5-$5 million annual cost of ANS program implementation, increase fines for violations and allow CPW to charge for labor and costs incurred to store and decontaminate intercepted vessels.

“Zebra and quagga mussels pose a serious threat to our state’s water infrastructure, natural resources and recreation,” said Bob Broscheid, director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said in a press release. “As a headwater state with no adult mussel infestations, the only way zebra or quagga mussels can get into Colorado is overland by hitchhiking on watercraft.”

The numbers of motorboats and sailboats found by inspectors each year infested with zebra and quagga mussels continues to rise, according to the release.

In 2017, Colorado inspectors intercepted a record 26 boats infested with adult mussels coming in from out of state. They have intercepted 144 boats infested with adult mussels since the ANS Program began.

Zebra and quagga mussels are not native to the nation’s rivers, lakes and reservoirs. Adult infestations harm aquatic ecosystems and fisheries by disrupting the food web and out-competing native species, according to CPW, as well as problems for water infrastructure used for municipal, agriculture and industrial purposes by attaching to, clogging and impairing water storage, treatment and distribution systems.

“While the problem is getting worse in neighboring states, Colorado’s prevention program is working to keep mussels out of our waters,” Reid DeWalt, assistant director of wildlife and natural resources for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said.

Tamarisk Coalition: Riparian Restoration Conference, February 6 and 7, 2018

Colorado National Monument from the Colorado River Trail near Fruita September 2014

Click here to for the Inside skinny and to register:

Join Tamarisk Coalition and the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University for the 16th annual Riparian Restoration Conference in Grand Junction, Colorado, a premier destination on Colorado’s Western Slope.

Drones are changing the way conservation is conducted — @Nature_Org

From The Nature Conservancy (Jan TenBruggencate):

They can track feral animals, survey invasive species, check fencelines and photograph rare plants on the highest, steepest cliffs. In doing so, the Nature Conservancy’s newest conservation workers float like butterflies over the native forest.

“Drones are revolutionizing the way conservation can be conducted, and for far less than the cost of a helicopter or sending in ground teams,” said Alison Cohan, the Conservancy’s director for Maui Nui forest programs.

Unmanned aerial vehicles—drones—are performing jobs that would otherwise be time-consuming, dangerous and, in some cases, impossible. And with every passing week, wildland managers are identifying new applications for this remarkable technology.
Like herding—using drones as airborne sheepdogs to move feral animals out of areas where they threaten native plant communities. Or taking drones out over the ocean to assess the health of coral reefs. Or flying up the side of a tall native palm to inspect flowers and fruit, to confirm it is a new find or an endangered species.

“We started thinking about this years ago, but the technology wasn’t there yet,” said Trae Menard, director of forest conservation for The Nature Conservancy of Hawai‘i.


Menard led the Hawai‘i program into the world of drones. At first, the batteries didn’t last long enough. They were far too expensive. And they didn’t have first-person viewing—the ability for the operator to see what the drone is seeing in real time.

About two years ago, those matters had been largely resolved. Drones were cheaper, you could view their imagery on an iPad or a cell phone, they were linked with cameras of superb quality, and they had enough power to do real work. But the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ruled that to use a drone for non-recreational purposes would require a pilot’s license.

“We would have needed pilots on staff,” said Melinda Ching, the Conservancy’s senior regional attorney.

Ching worked with the mainland law firm Morrison & Foerster, which in turn worked with the FAA to develop a special certification for conservation drone operators—detailed enough to ensure public safety, but you didn’t need to know how to fly a full-size plane.

“Morrison & Foerster has a whole team that does aviation law. We were able to influence regulations for small commercial operations and to develop a remote pilot certification. The Nature Conservancy’s examples of conservation use were cited in the commentary on the new rule,” Ching said.


The Conservancy’s Hawai‘i forest program operates drones from three of its offices—Kaua‘i, Maui Nui and Hawai‘i—and in just six months to a year of use, their value has become apparent. Shalan Crysdale, the Conservancy’s Hawai‘i Island director for forest conservation, listed a few of his drone applications:

● Assessing the effectiveness of a mountain slope to serve as a natural barrier against pigs by flying a drone out over the edge to measure its steepness.

● Gathering close-up imagery of suspect incipient weeds in remote areas, specifically vines in Ka‘ū that appeared to be banana poka or bitter melon, but were proven to be native hoi kuahiwi, or Smilax melastomifolia.

● Identifying endangered plant species in remote areas, such as Pritchardia lanigera, a rare loulu palm, in Ka‘ū preserve.

● Mapping trails and village sites within lava fields along the Hīlea coast at Kawa Bay.

“Shalan has also used drones to make a video for a grant proposal,” Menard said. “We realized that this could be an outreach tool, a way to bring the forest to the people.”

Maui Nui’s Cohan said her teams have used drones to check on the effectiveness of herbicide treatment on invasive Monterey pine, Mexican weeping pine and Sugi pine. Those weedy trees often grow on steep slopes that are too dangerous to access regularly on foot.

“We are able to fly these areas to do pre-and post-treatment comparisons—to monitor the dieback,” she said.

Drones are used on several islands to scout possible fenceline routes for natural geological barriers where fences can terminate. And once fences are in place, the drones can check their condition—to see whether pigs or deer have breached the wire mesh, or whether trees have fallen and damaged the fences.


At the Conservancy’s Kānepu‘u Preserve on Lāna‘i, drones are used to check on whether deer have managed to gain entry to the state’s best remaining natural assemblage of dryland forest, with its mature stands of native ebony (lama) and olive (olopua) sandalwood (‘iliahi) and Hawaiian gardenia (nā‘ū).

And if deer are observed, Cohan said, the buzzing drones can be used to drive them out of the protected forest area. “We can do this work at far less cost and with greater safety than traditional helicopter and ground operations,” she said.

Lucas Behnke, the natural resource manager for Kaua‘i, is one of the Conservancy’s certified drone pilots. He was licensed in September 2016.

“The drone changes the angle from which we can observe the environment,” he said. “That perspective is the most exciting part about drones.”

Of course, it’s not all good. Drones can also cause problems.

“They make a lot of noise. They clearly can affect invasive ungulates (hooved animals like goats, pigs and deer), but they also have the potential to affect bird behavior,” Behnke said. “We need to be careful.”

That said, drones have the potential to allow researchers to regularly fly the forest and create images that map changes over time—seasonal changes, changes in weed invasion, changes in forest composition, even progression of diseases through the landscape.

The Conservancy’s drone corps is anxious to hook up forward-looking infrared capacity to the drones—perhaps to identify the presence of invasive ungulates under the canopy. With the help of heat-sensors, drones could also potentially identify remnant hot spots after forest fires have been largely extinguished, Menard said.


The Conservancy’s Hawai‘i marine program is also experimenting with drones. Community-based Program Manager Manuel Mejia and Fellow Bert Weeks are testing whether a drone called the “aquacopter” can be used to detect coral bleaching and the regrowth of invasive algae on patch reefs in O‘ahu’s Kāne‘ohe Bay.

The aquacopter can be programmed to land on water and uses a camera on its underbelly to capture underwater photos and video as it moves from point to point along a pre-determined flight path. “If we are successful, the aquacopter could substantially reduce the long man hours normally required for surveying,” Weeks said. “Another potential application is using the cameras to create 3-D models of the reefs.”

As Conservancy staff continue to identify new uses of existing drones, the drones themselves are getting better. The expectation is that engineering advances will create drones that are smaller, lighter and have a longer battery life.

“It’s powerful. A new frontier,” said Menard. “It’s changing the way we do conservation.”

McPhee still free of quaggas

Mcphee Reservoir

From The Durango Herald (Jim Mimiaga):

A coalition of local government agencies that formed to prevent an invasive mussel contamination at McPhee Reservoir can claim victory in its first year.

A test in October showed no sign of the dreaded quagga or zebra mussels, which proliferate rapidly and can attach in suffocating layers to irrigation and municipal infrastructure.

“With the help of the community, we have avoided contamination and protected our water source,” Ken Curtis, an engineer with the Dolores Water Conservancy District, said during a recent community meeting to gather public comment.

The success is credited to stringent new rules that require all motorized and trailered boats to go through mussel inspection stations at either the House Creek or McPhee boat ramps during open hours. Mussels are carried in standing water of engines and ballasts.

Restricted access changed the culture of McPhee access.