ANS boat inspections are ramping up for 2017
In 2008, an alarm was sounded for Colorado waters. Pueblo Reservoir had tested positive for invasive mussels. Zebra and quagga mussels were spreading across the country ever since their accidental introduction into the Great Lakes decades ago. These tiny creatures quickly multiplied and attached themselves to hard surfaces. This led to the need for very expensive mitigation by water providers and the owners of the infrastructure. In some states, waters were being closed to boating access to prevent the introduction of mussels.
Doug Krieger from Colorado Parks and Wildlife joined me on my radio show last Saturday to discuss the current state of the boat-inspection program in Colorado.
CPW knew that to prevent closures of our state’s waters, it would need a system that instilled confidence in their partners, who owned and managed the reservoirs, such as water providers, municipalities, ditch companies, etc. Legislation was passed providing funding to be taken from the state severance tax in the amount of about $4 million to implement this program on an annual basis. An additional $1 million was provided by others. Thus began what boaters in Colorado have come to know as the aquatic nuisance species (ANS) boat inspections.
Aided by the fact no water from infected reservoirs flows into this state, the inspection process seemed to be working. There were 220 boats coming from out of state that were intercepted and prevented from contaminating Colorado waters. Pueblo Reservoir went from a positive to a negative status, making Colorado the only state to go from positive to completely negative. Boaters had come to understand the process, and the water owners felt comfortable.
Then British Petroleum sued the state of Colorado over the severance tax. In February 2016, it won. Last year, lost in the noise about fee increases for fishing and hunting to cover other budget issues at Colorado Parks and Wildlife, most boaters were unaware that we were heading into 2017 with no funding for the ANS program.
Parks and Wildlife scrambled to come up with funds. It found about $1.5 million in a reserve fund, and its partners have pitched in a significant amount for this year but are still well short of the $5 million they have had in past years. Of the 70-plus bodies of water considered the highest risk priority, all but a handful have funding to maintain the inspection process this year, although some may have some reduced access times. Those that are not funded include the Granby-area lakes of Grand Mountain, Granby and Shadow Mountain. Green Mountain, Taylor Park and Jumbo Reservoir are also not funded at this time, among a few others. While Parks and Wildlife is optimistic it will come up with funding, it cannot guarantee these lakes will be open to boating this year.
If legislation is not passed to resolve this issue, we will face this same situation next year and going forward.
Mark Coughlin joined me on the show to announce that the ramps at Horsetooth and Carter reservoirs would be opening April on Saturday. They are hoping to have their normal hours of access this season. To make that happen, they had to put together a partnership with Larimer County, Northern Colorado Water, Colorado Parks and Wildlife to come up with $300,000. This is not an inexpensive program, but the alternative is a loss of boating access to Colorado waters.
Alternative funding and systems are all being explored and CPW hopes to see a legislative solution going forward. If you are a boater in this state, you need to pay attention and make sure your voice is heard.