Ruedi boaters to face weekend inspections
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
BASALT, Colorado – Ruedi Reservoir boaters will face mandatory inspections for invasive mussels every weekend this summer under a beefed-up effort spearheaded by the Ruedi Water and Power Authority.
Last summer, the Colorado Division of Wildlife arranged for a roving inspection unit to set up occasionally at the Ruedi boat ramp. This year, the DOW is focusing its efforts on heavily used Front Range reservoirs, leaving Ruedi out of the loop, according to Mark Fuller, RWAPA director.
“Nobody else seems to want to deal with it, frankly,” he said.
The Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Ruedi, has a plan to respond to the presence of mussels, but none to prevent their introduction, according to Fuller. RWAPA will do what it can to make sure zebra and quagga mussels don’t invade Ruedi in the first place.
The inspection station will operate Friday through Sunday, from the Memorial Day to Labor Day weekends. The authority will contract with a private concessionaire, California-based Rocky Mountain Recreation, to run the operation. The outfit conducted boat inspections at Twin Lakes Reservoir last year and comes highly recommended by the DOW, according to Fuller.
The U.S. Forest Service has put up $10,000 to help fund the effort; the authority will look to its members and other environmental organizations to help with the $15,000 budget for this summer. Area governments are RWAPA members; so far, Aspen and Pitkin County have both agreed to provide $500 grants toward the monitoring.
The hope is to expand the program in future years, but this summer, boaters will be on the honor system to make sure they’re complying with state regulations aimed at halting the spread of mussels when the inspection station isn’t running, Fuller said.
“It’s kind of a cross-your-fingers deal,” he said.
Ruedi is currently considered mussel-free, according to Fuller. In a survey of Colorado reservoirs by the DOW and Bureau of Reclamation, it ranked low on the list of vulnerable bodies of water, he said.
“Ruedi was close to the bottom of those rankings, partly because it’s a high-altitude, cold-water reservoir, and partly because it’s remote,” Fuller said.
RWAPA hopes the weekend monitoring catches boaters who may be coming from other areas where their vessels may have picked up mussels.
“If somebody brings a boat from Carbondale, they’re probably not a concern,” Fuller said. “If they came from Lake Powell, they probably are.”
If inspectors find mussels on a boat, decontamination involves power-washing the vessel with extremely hot water to remove and kill the organisms.
Zebra mussels and their cousin, the quagga mussel, are voracious, freshwater mollusks that cause costly damage, attaching themselves to boat hulls, motors and water-system intakes, clogging pumps, pipes and outdoor motors. They can also upset native ecosystems.
Boaters can spread zebra mussel eggs and larvae without knowing it, and a single breeding pair of zebra mussels can result in a huge colony, say the experts. Adult mussels are typically about the size of a fingernail.
“Basically, any surface is susceptible to these things,” Fuller said. “If the kind of infestations we see in the Midwest were duplicated in Ruedi, it would pretty much make Ruedi useless for anything, including fishing, because they eat everything.”
Go to the DOW website – http://wildlife.state.co.us/Fishing/MandatoryBoatInspections.htm – for details on boat regulations regarding mussel inspections and decontamination.