Lake Granby, Shadow Mountain and Grand Lake will remain open through the fall season.  Officials from Northern Water decided to fund three boat ramp mussel inspection stations into December.

Boats that have recently been on Lake Powell are posing a serious threat of infesting Colorado lakes and reservoirs with invasive quagga and zebra mussels, Colorado Parks and Wildlife reports.

So far this summer, CPW and other inspectors in Colorado have found a record 43 boats containing mussels, and 32 of those came from Lake Powell, which is infested with the invasive pests. The previous record was just 26 boats.

The ongoing spread of non-native mussels in the United States has caused “massive, ecosystem-wide changes” throughout the Great Lakes region, some of the planet’s largest freshwater lakes, according to a recent study. And closer to home, Lake Powell has become a warm water oasis for the mussels. Environmental leaders and politicians do not want the species to get a foothold in the infrastructure for Colorado’s front range water supply.

In 2017, the Department of the Interior released a package of actions and initiatives developed through collaboration with western governors and federal, state and Tribal agencies to protect areas in the West from the economic and ecological threats posed by invasive mussels.

More than 70 federal, state and tribal entities came together to develop 41 action items to develop the document, Safeguarding the West from Invasive Species. Included in the action items was monitoring and controlling the potential movement of the invasive species by requiring thorough inspections at boat ramps. Part of the action was to control access points to our waterways. The inspection stations are a preventative measure to thwart the spread of the invasive species.

This spring, as part of the mandate, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials installed boat ramp gate closures on our Three Lake system after the Bureau of Reclamation handed down the action items.

“The Bureau wants to maintain recreation on all the reservoirs and at the same time, protect the waters from invasive aquatic nuisance species,” said Jeromy Huntington, District Wildlife Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “This seems to be the best solution at this point in time.”

The inspection stations are part of a contract agreement with Rocky Mountain Rec Company and the stations are manned based on contract funding. The closures are controlled by an onsite inspection station attendant.

Earlier this summer, it was announced that all ramps would be closed on October 15th due to limited funding.

The proposed closure did not sit well with some local boaters who prefer off-hour daily launches and an extended boating season. Keith Sanders, avid fisherman and local business owner, said, “The early closure will have a negative economic effect on the shoulder season and I think it is important to find solutions.”  Many outdoorsman hunt and fish well into November each year. Sanders added, “and most of us want to get on the water as soon as the ice breaks in April.” Sanders and a local group of stakeholders want to find a way to fund the system to meet the needs of everyone.

A group of local stakeholders, including Sanders, county officials, avid fisherman and CPW staff rallied to find a way to keep the boat ramps on Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Lake Granby open in the shoulder seasons.

The group presented information about the economic impacts of early closures and shoulder season lake usage in a series of meetings and Northern Water officials and it was decided that Northern Water would develop a budget for an extended season this fall for the three lakes.

“This is excellent news for everyone,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Invasive Species Coordinator Elizabeth Brown. “Fall access to these waters have been uncertain this year due to the significant threat of a zebra or quagga mussels being introduced by watercraft. With the investment from Northern Water, the inspection and decontamination stations will remain open through the rest of this season, people can continue to enjoy the lakes a little longer.”

Mike Evans, fisherman and stakeholder in the group said, ”Northern really stepped up to make this happen” adding, “Ed Moyer, Grand County Assistant County Manager, carried the ball to keep the process on track.” Evans said, “This a start. We need a long term solution because the threat is not going away.”

Northern had help from Colorado Parks and Wildlife to negotiate the extended season contract with Rocky Mountain Recreation Company, the contractor responsible for staffing the inspectors at the boat ramps.  CPW has recently verbally confirmed the fall ramp schedule and is said to be preparing an official press release but was not out at the time of press.

Of note: The decontamination machine water temperature needs to get to 140 degrees to do the job.  Huntington stated, “In cold weather, there will likely be times the decon machine may not work”. The best solutions for local boaters is to make sure you get a tag each time you come off the lake.  According to officials, “the weather is going to play a role in shoulder season access and this will be a test on our decon system.” Huntington added, “If you do not have a tag, you may not be able to launch.”

The Three Lakes Fall Schedule:

Lake Granby, Sunset Point is closing Oct 15th.

Grand Lake East Inlet will be open through Dec 2nd. 6am to 6pm
Shadow Mountain at Green Ridge open through Dec 2nd 6am to 6pm
Stillwater on Lake Granby will be open through Dec 2nd 6am to 6pm

It is recommended to check with the inspector each time you launch and/or take out to make sure the schedule has not changed.

If you want more information Mike Evans and Keith Sanders have setup a Facebook Page “OurLakes”.

The page has been created to help build public awareness and harmonize the need to protect our natural resources along with balancing the public’s right to use that same resource for recreational purposes.  Ourlakes is focused on the CBT (Colorado Big Thompson) lakes which include Lake Granby, Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Grand Lake, all located in Grand County, Colorado.