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Agency partners take action to keep local waterways free of mussels
Bureau of Reclamation
New requirements from the Eastern Colorado Area Office, Bureau of Reclamation, will mean that boat ramps will remain locked except when an inspector is present. People staying in backcountry boat-in campsites and visitors wanting to fish after 10 p.m. should be aware of this change, because boat ramps will be closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. These protective measures are intended to prevent illegal launching without inspection, which could result in introduction and infestation of the reservoirs by invasive aquatic species such as the quagga and zebra mussels.

Boaters should be aware of ramp hours to ensure access to the ramp at the end of their visit. A full schedule is available at

At Pinewood Reservoir, which is located above Carter Lake west of Berthoud, inspectors will not be present at any time this season, so no trailered motorboats or sailboats will be allowed on the water. Other non-motorized vessels such as kayaks, canoes, single-chambered rafts and stand-up paddleboards may continue to use the reservoir if hand-launched and hand-powered. Horsetooth Reservoir, Carter Lake, Pinewood Reservoir and Flatiron Reservoir are part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, which delivers water to 960,000 residents and 640,000 acres of irrigated land along the northern Front Range and Northeastern Colorado. The reservoirs were built by Reclamation, and Reclamation jointly operates and maintains those sites with Northern Water. Larimer County has managed the recreation at those reservoirs since they were opened to recreation in the 1950s. No watercraft are allowed on Flatiron Reservoir, where shoreline fishing is allowed.

Last year, the larval form of mussels, called veligers, were detected in Green Mountain Reservoir in Summit County. Fortunately, to date there have been no adult mussels found in any Colorado reservoir.

The nonnative quagga and zebra mussels continue to spread nationwide. Both freshwater species are native to Eastern Europe and gained a foothold in North America in the Great Lakes, tagging along in the ballast water or on an anchor of a freighter from across the Atlantic. From there, they have spread to lakes and reservoirs across the United States, including Lake Powell in Utah and Lake Mead in Nevada and Arizona.

When the mussels become established in bodies of water, they reproduce rapidly and can cause the collapse of ecosystems as they devour the nutrients that sustain native populations of plants, insects and fish. More troubling, they attach themselves to any surface, including the water delivery systems used by water managers and utilities to bring water to their customers. Water managers at Lake Mead and Lake Powell spend millions of rate-payers' dollars every year to clean infrastructure affected by mussel infestations there.

Once established, the mussels have proven themselves resilient to attempts to eradicate them. No method has proven effective in ridding North American waters from the pests. The risk of infestation is growing, and managers are working to stay ahead of these threats.

Owners of all watercraft are asked to remain vigilant by cleaning, draining and drying their boats before going to any body of water.

Starting in 2019, boaters in Colorado must have an additional annual sticker to launch their vessels. The fee will be $25 for in-state boats and $50 for boats from outside Colorado, with the money going toward inspection costs. Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the measure into law, the Mussel Free Colorado Act, on April 23.

In coming years, Reclamation, Northern Water, Larimer County Natural Resources and Colorado Parks and Wildlife will continue to work diligently to ensure protection of the reservoirs and water delivery systems from aquatic nuisance species while striving to maintain recreation resources. Having an effective program to protect our local reservoirs will Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier in the United States, and the nation's second largest producer of hydroelectric power. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at and follow us on Twitter @USBR. future access for recreation.
Member comments
by: 007 on 5/10/2018 7:13:00 PM
Yes they are costly and can change the biology of a lake, but St. Clair, Erie, Powell, Mead, Huron, Lake Fork...all have established mussels and continue to sustain incredible fisheries and ecosystems. Not sure that they"cause the collapse of ecosystems." is supportable by the evidence. How about some citations for these claims?