2018 #COleg: Governor Hickenlooper signs HB18-1008 (Mussel-free Colorado Act)

Zebra and Quagga Mussels

From email from Colorado Parks and Recreation:

On Tuesday, April 24, 2018, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the Mussel-Free Colorado Act into law in a short ceremony at the Colorado State Capitol Building in Denver. The new law provides a stable funding source of $2.4 million for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Aquatic Nuisance Species Program for 2019 and beyond.

In February, the House passed the bill 44 – 20. The bill passed the Senate 24 – 10 in March.

“This is a huge win for protecting Colorado’s water,” said CPW Director Bob Broscheid. “Stable funding for the ANS program means a stable future for Colorado.”

The law requires Colorado residents to purchase a $25 ANS stamp for their boat. Non-residents must purchase a $50 stamp. The new law also:

  • Continues Tier 2 Severance Tax appropriations, when available, to cover the remainder of the $4.5 – $5 million annual cost of ANS program implementation
  • Increases fines for ANS-related violations. The fine for unlawful boat launches without inspection will be raised from $50 to $100. The fine for knowing importation of ANS into the state will be raised from $150 to $500 for a first offense.
  • Allows CPW to charge labor/costs incurred to store and decontaminate intercepted vessels.
    Encourages federal partners to take responsibility for ANS inspection funding at their reservoirs.
  • Why do we need a mussel-free Colorado?

    Zebra and quagga mussels are not native to the nation’s rivers, lakes and reservoirs and are considered our most serious invasive species threat. Adult infestations harm aquatic ecosystems and fisheries by disrupting the food web and outcompeting native species. They cause enormous problems for water infrastructure used for municipal, agriculture and industrial purposes by attaching to, clogging and impairing water storage, treatment and distribution systems.

    Eradicating an adult mussel infestation in an open water body is nearly impossible. Controlling infestations becomes a permanent and expensive part of normal operations post invasion. Colorado has implemented an effective prevention program to stop mussel introduction by inspecting and decontaminating watercraft before they enter our waters and ensuring that users clean, drain and dry their own watercraft in between each use.

    Almost all the states east of Colorado have a zebra or quagga mussel infestation. A mandatory watercraft inspection and decontamination program, coupled with monitoring and education, is the best approach to keep Colorado free of the invasive mussels and other ANS.

    In 2017, Colorado inspectors intercepted 26 boats infested with adult mussels coming in from out of state – a new record. Colorado has intercepted more than 145 boats infested with adult mussels since the ANS Program began in 2008. The number of infested boats increase each year and there have already been six infested boats intercepted in 2018.

    Colorado’s ANS Program was in Jeopardy

    The Colorado ANS Program was authorized by the Colorado Legislature in 2008 utilizing severance tax funds. CPW has leveraged those funds with federal and local grants to fund the ANS Program since inception. However, severance tax is a fluctuating source and federal funds have been reduced in recent years. The Mussel-Free Colorado Act is essential to providing a stable base of funding for the ANS Program to be leveraged with other dollars for the continued protection of water infrastructure, natural resources and maintaining recreational access to lakes and reservoirs. This funding source is critical to protecting our waters and water infrastructure from irreversible invasion.

    For more information about CPW’s ANS Program and the Mussel-Free Colorado Act, visit http://cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/Pages/ISP-ANS.aspx.

    2018 #COleg: Amendment to HB18-1338 would shore up severance tax funds

    Oil and gas development on the Roan via Airphotona

    From The Fort Morgan Times (Marianne Goodland):

    Severance tax revenues have fallen off dramatically in the past three years, down from nearly $300 million in 2014-15 to about $57 million in 2016-17. That’s due partly to lower oil and gas drilling activity and to additional property tax deductions awarded to the oil and gas companies, the result of the state losing a lawsuit two years ago to oil giant BP.

    As a result, the state doesn’t have enough severance tax money to cover some of those obligations, and the Joint Budget Committee decided to put $30 million in general funds (income and sales tax) into the main severance tax fund to ensure those operations and activities are covered.

    Sonnenberg’s idea is to amend House Bill 1338 to start paying back some of the hundreds of millions of dollars in severance tax money that state borrowed to shore up the budget in recession years. Sonnenberg’s amendment will deal with more than just that money; he also wants to be sure there’s enough in the fund to avoid charging boat owners a fee for inspections for zebra mussels. That’s another measure — House Bill 1008 — that’s awaiting final debate and a vote in the Senate.

    The measure would charge boaters between $25 and $50 for a stamp that would cover the cost of inspections at state waterways, such as Green Mountain Reservoir in Summit County, where a zebra mussel was found last year.

    Sonnenberg considers the zebra mussel problem one of statewide interest, hence his desire to fund the inspection program out of severance tax dollars rather than requiring boaters to pay for it. Sonnenberg is a co-sponsor of House Bill 1008 but voted against it in the Senate Appropriations Committee because of its funding source. “With a $1.3 billion surplus we can pay back severance tax dollars” and cover the cost of the program, estimated at around $2.2 million, he said.

    A boost to severance tax dollars might also help out the state water plan. Last week, the annual CWCB projects bill came out, with $7 million targeted toward water plan projects. That’s $3 million less than what the water plan got last year, and that’s because of the lack of severance tax dollars, sources told this reporter. “We have to live within our budget,” Sonnenberg said.

    The projects bill devotes $3 million out of the water plan’s $7 million planned appropriation to storage, which Sonnenberg applauds.

    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.”

    DECONTAMINATION

    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.