After initially banning all boating on Narraguinnep Reservoir, operators eased that ban to allow small, non-motorized craft, including canoes, kayaks, rafts, windsurfing boards, sailboards, paddleboards, float tubes and inner tubes,
That was a sensible and generous response to the threat of small, invasive mussels that could cripple local reservoirs’ ability to release water for irrigation and other uses.
Zebra mussels reproduce exponentially in waters that harbor no natural predators, and they can wreck an irrigation network’s system of pipes, gates and valves in an astonishingly short amount of time. Once established, they are nearly impossible to eradicate. While not acknowledged to have reached western Colorado, they have been detected in Lake Powell, just one boat-trailer ride away.
Water managers have banned boating entirely in other reservoirs, although that may yet change. Motorized watercraft are allowed on McPhee Reservoir only after passing through inspection stations, but the other reservoirs are too small to justify inspection programs.
Even in “public” reservoirs, water rights are owned by someone; boaters are only incidental, nonconsumptive users. Anglers and others who enjoy motorboats and personal watercraft are complaining, but motors, with their nooks, crannies, and bilge pumps, present the greatest risk for transferring mussels from one body of water to another. Boat users, not irrigators, should be responsible for minimizing the risk because they are the ones who could introduce the problem, even though water users have the highest stake in ensuring they don’t.
Anglers, too, have an interest in not allowing mussels to invade local waters. Mussels eat plankton and that reduction in food moves up the food chain to diminish the population of sport fish. They also can hamper the fish population by reducing their oxygen supply.
Recreational fishing and boating are part of our economy as well as part of our lifestyle. This is a sensible plan that, if successful at Narraguinnep, can be implemented at other local reservoirs. Everyone who depends upon and enjoys access to local reservoirs should work toward its success.