Inspectors are intercepting far more mussel-invested boats trying to enter Colorado lakes this year than in previous years, and a few contaminated boats have been stopped at McPhee Reservoir.
This year, inspectors statewide had stopped 51 infected boats, matching last year’s record, according to a news release.
Two of those infested boats were stopped at McPhee Reservoir in early June, said Colorado Parks and Wildlife Spokesman Joe Lewandowksi. The two boats were discovered amid 3,746 inspections, he said.
Both infested boats discovered at McPhee and many stopped across the state are coming from Lake Powell, a lake heavily invested with mussels, he said.
Southwest Colorado is an area of particular concern for finding contaminated boats because of its close proximity to Powell.
Water levels in Lake Powell are rising, and mussels previously stranded on the rock walls of the lake are getting dislodged and returning to the water, he said.
While boats are supposed to be inspected as they leave Powell, inspection stations there are overwhelmed and not all boats are thoroughly inspected. Mussels have even been found on paddleboards and canoes that have been in the lake, according to a news release.
Colorado boaters that have visited Lake Powell should be upfront about their boat’s high risk for mussels because that can save everyone involved some time, he said.
Once mussels are introduced to a lake, mussels clog reservoir infrastructure such as dams and outlet structures. They also can hurt fish populations because they consume so much plankton, a news release said.
There is no practical way to remove mussels from lakes, Lewandowksi said.
Colorado lakes are still believed to be mussel-free because of the state’s thorough inspections, he said.
At McPhee, boaters must use two designated ramps, which should help protect the lake.
“People can’t sneak in and that’s always the big worry,” he said.
If a boat is invested with mussels, it can take a week or two for the boat to be decontaminated. Hot water is used to help kill mussels in boat engines. Boats must also completely dry out to kill the invasive mussels.
All boat owners who have been to Lake Powell should take extra care to inspect every inch of their craft and trailer – including lines, anchors, seat cushions and live wells, according to a news release.