ANS boat in­spec­tions are ramp­ing up for 2017

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Terry Wick­strom

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.

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