Colorado Inspectors Check Over 200K Boats for Aquatic Nuisance Species

DENVER, Colo. — Boat inspectors at Colorado State Parks have checked more than 200,000 boats so far this year and confirmed aquatic nuisance species (ANS), including zebra and quagga mussels, on eight vessels, all from other states. Those boats were decontaminated along with 12 other boats with suspected ANS, said Gene Seagle, ANS program manager for Colorado State Parks.

In addition, over 250 other boats were decontaminated because of standing water in the boat, which can carry the microscopic young mussels and other invasive species. The standing water decontaminations were performed on boats with ballast tanks or other hidden tanks or on boats with large amounts of standing water on board.

The two most recent cases involved adult mussels attached to the back of a boat and throughout the hull fittings on a boat from Texhoma, Texas that was about to enter Lake Pueblo on Sept. 24 and a vessel from Lake of the Ozarks, Mo. with adult mussels on the back. The second boat was headed into Lake Pueblo on Sept. 17. Each of the boats was decontaminated without cost and the owners in each situation were cooperative and thanked the inspectors for their help.

Two other boats, both from Michigan, were stopped in September before they entered Highline Lake because the inspection found adult mussels. The first boat was inspected and decontaminated on Sept. 5 and the second vessel, a small aluminum fishing boat, was inspected and decontaminated on Sept. 12

“Colorado boat owners should be commended for their diligence in cleaning, draining and drying their boats before coming to the lakes and reservoirs in Colorado State Parks,” Seagle said. ANS inspectors have been checking boats at the 28 state parks with reservoirs and lakes throughout the year.

ANS were found on four other boats this year through the state parks’ inspection program:

• Inspectors at Lake Pueblo checked a cabin cruiser from Lake of the Ozarks, Mo. on Jan. 8 and found 20 adult mussels, which had died during transport, on the back of the boat.

• Adult zebra mussels were found May 26 on a cabin cruiser from Texas during an inspection at Lake Pueblo. The owner had recently purchased the boat.

• A cabin cruiser from Table Rock, Mo. with several dozen young adult ANS was inspected at Chatfield on June 10. The ANS staff found the mussels, which in the young adult stage look like large pieces of cracked black pepper, in multiple patches on the hull and engine.

• On Aug. 12, Navajo Lake ANS inspectors found dead adult mussels on a pontoon boat from Arizona.

In all eight cases, the boats were decontaminated before they entered the water. Decontamination takes an average of two hours and requires 250 gallons of water, heated to over 140 degrees Fahrenheit, to kill and remove the mussels.

Last year, the inspection program found nine boats with ANS. This year’s inspections will continue through the boating season. For specific information on boating conditions, check the conditions report on each park’s website.

Rob Billerbeck, manager of the biological programs for Colorado State Parks, said the public education campaign about ANS has reduced the risk of ANS spreading.

“We are seeing more boaters showing up already cleaned, drained and dry,” he said. “Most boaters also show up having heard of zebra mussels, so they understand why we are doing this program to protect Colorado’s lakes, reservoirs and streams.”

Colorado State Parks has one of the most progressive and active ANS inspection programs in the nation.

To protect Colorado’s water, boaters leaving a lake or other waterway, boaters should:

  • CLEAN all mud, plants or animals from the hull of your boat.
  • DRAIN all of the water from the boat, live well and lower unit of the engine.
  • DRY the boat and contents before the next launch.