The Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co. on Tuesday retreated from its boating ban at Narraguinnep Reservoir and agreed to allow some hand-launched, non-motorized watercraft.
MVIC, which owns the lake, had announced in its newsletter that Narraguinnep would be closed to all boating, because it feared that mussels could contaminate the lake and damage irrigation equipment.
“We can’t afford to get the mussel in there because of the damage they cause to our infrastructure,” MVIC manager Brandon Johnson told The Journal on March 7. “We had to take drastic action against this threat because we’re in the irrigation business, not the recreation business.”
Mussels from infected lakes, including Lake Powell, can travel in standing water of boats and contaminate other lakes clogging pipes, valves and canals. Narraguinnep does not have a boat inspection station.
The revised ban still includes motorized and trailered boats, including jet skis. Such watercraft can carry water from infected lakes in the engines, bilges and ballasts, according to the MVIC.
The specific list of nine non-motorized boats that are allowed on the lake include kayaks, canoes, rafts, belly boats, windsurfer boards, sailboards, float tubes, inner tubes and paddle boards.
“The board is in agreement on allowing those crafts,” Gerald Koppenhafer, president of the MVIC board, said on Tuesday.
Totten Lake, which is owned by the Dolores Water Conservancy District, also recently banned boating, but is also expected to allow the specific list of non-motorized boats, general manager Mike Preston said on Tuesday.
“The intention of our board is to be consistent with MVI and allow the exempted watercraft,” he said.
Motorized, trailered boats will still be banned at Totten, and a locked gate will be installed soon at the boat ramp. A locked gate has already been installed at the Narraguinnep boat ramp to prevent motorized boats from entering the water.
The MVIC board made an amended motion specifying which boats are allowed at their regular meeting on Tuesday. About 20 audience members showed up, and public comment was heard.
“Banning all boats was a big hit for me because I’m a windsurfer with land on Narraguinnep,” said Russ Montgomery. “Thank you for allowing the hand-launched boats.”
Specifying which boats are allowed is important for enforcement of boating restrictions, which will be done by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office.
The boating ban triggered an outcry from the boating community, and generated complaints to the Montezuma county commission. Dozens of comments for and against the policy were posted on The Journal’s Facebook page.
McPhee Reservoir allows all types of boating, but trailered and motorized watercraft can only enter the lake through two boat inspection stations at the McPhee boat ramp and the House Creek boat ramp. The list of nine, hand-launched boats can launch from anywhere. Funding is available for boat inspection stations at McPhee but not other area lakes.
Irrigation companies and lake managers are trying to prevent the invasive mussel from entering Colorado waterways. Once a lake becomes contaminated with the mussels, they cannot be eliminated and cause damage to irrigation infrastructure, including dams, municipal systems and power plants. Mitigating a mussel contamination year-to-year also dramatically increases operation costs.
A decision is pending on how to prevent a mussel contamination at Groundhog Reservoir, which also is owned by MVIC.
All boat owners should be careful to clean, drain and dry all their boats after leaving any waterway to prevent contaminating local lakes.
A community meeting outlining the new boating regulations on area lakes has been scheduled for Thursday, March 30. A location will be announced soon.