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Boating season brings mandatory watercraft inspections

The Colorado Division of Wildlife reminds boaters that mandatory watercraft inspections are in effect for the 2010 boating season. Boaters should prepare to have vessels checked at most locations this year, as watercraft inspection sites are now operating at more than 200 locations statewide, including Colorado State Wildlife Areas, Colorado State Parks and other federal and local lakes and reservoirs.

“The Colorado watercraft inspection program, now in its third year, is part of a cooperative, multi-agency effort to stop the spread of zebra and quagga mussels and other aquatic nuisance species in Colorado waters,” said Elizabeth Brown, DOW invasive species coordinator. “Boaters have been extremely cooperative since the program’s inception, and we are asking for their continued compliance with regulations and inspections as we begin this year’s boating season.”

Regulations approved last year by the Colorado Parks Board require all out-of-state boats to pass a state-certified inspection prior to launching anywhere in Colorado. Colorado residents who trailer boats out of the state must also complete an inspection before entering any in-state waters.

In addition, boats launched on any Colorado lake or reservoir where mussels have been detected must pass an inspection prior to launching at a new location. Colorado lakes and reservoirs testing positive for zebra and or quagga mussels include Lake Pueblo, Lake Granby, Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain, Willow Creek, Jumbo (Logan County) and Tarryall reservoirs. Biologists consider Blue Mesa Reservoir “suspect” for the presence of zebra and/or quagga mussels and monitoring and testing are ongoing. The National Park Service and the DOW have jointly implemented containment measures and mandatory inspections at Blue Mesa boat ramps.

Mandatory inspections are limited to trailered watercraft. Hand-launched crafts, including kayaks, rafts, canoes, sailboards and belly boats, pose a low risk for spreading ANS and may launch without an inspection. Owners of hand-launched craft are strongly encouraged to adhere to “Clean, Drain and Dry” practices to further minimize contamination risks.

Beginning in May, select DOW offices, state, federal, county and municipal reservoirs and a number of private marinas and boat dealers will offer state-certified inspections and decontamination services. All DOW and Colorado State Parks sites are free-of-charge; however, park entrance fees apply on all state parks. Privately operated service providers are fee-based, and prices may vary among vendors.

Boaters are encouraged to obtain a “green” seal and corresponding receipt before leaving inspection sites. Green seals validate prior inspections, allowing boaters to launch more quickly at reservoirs. Boaters who have completed inspections at other locations are required to stop at reservoir inspection sites to have seals and receipts verified, and to ensure vessels are clean and dry.

ANS inspectors checked more than 400,000 boats, conducted 3,300 decontaminations and intercepted 19 boats encrusted with invasive mussels entering Colorado from other states in 2009. This year, ANS inspectors have already intercepted seven contaminated, non-resident vessels, causing great concern for ANS officials.

“Boats trailered here from other states pose the greatest threat to our lakes and reservoirs,” said Brown. “Any one of these encrusted vessels could have introduced mussels to a new location in Colorado. This is why it’s imperative that inspections continue and the boating community continues to support the watercraft inspection program.”

State law enforcement officers are also on the lookout for boats carrying mussels or other invasive species across state lines.

“Contaminated boats unlawfully entering Colorado waters is something we take very seriously,” said Jay Sarason, DOW chief of law enforcement. “Willful violations can result in vessel impoundment along with tickets issued to the operator.”

Boaters are reminded to observe the following steps in order to prevent transporting mussels or other ANS:

Clean: Remove all plants, animals, mud; and thoroughly wash everything, including all crevices and other hidden areas.

Drain: Eliminate all water before leaving the area, including live wells, bait containers, ballast and engine cooling water.

Dry: Allow sufficient time for your boat and other equipment to completely dry before launching in other waters.