A trailered houseboat encrusted with invasive mussels was discovered by Colorado Parks and Wildlife on the shoulder of U.S. Highway 160 at Mancos Hill on Tuesday.
The boat, which was on a blocked-up damaged trailer, came from the Lake Powell and was heading to Navajo Lake, reported Joe Lewandowski, spokesman for Parks and Wildlife.
“It was put on a hold, and will be hauled to Navajo Lake, where it will be decontaminated at the boat inspection station there,” he said.
The boat will be kept isolated and out of the water for six to eight weeks, and Navajo State Park officials expect the decontamination procedures to take more than 80 hours.
Lake Powell is contaminated with the invasive mussel species, which cause damage to irrigation and municipal systems.
A Parks and Wildlife boat-inspection technician happened across the 45-foot houseboat while driving along U.S. 160, east of Mancos. He took a closer look and discovered the boat from Arizona was contaminated with adult mussels.
“The technician stood guard overnight while the owner was contacted, and he is cooperating,” Lewandowski said.
The discovery is alarming as Colorado is free of the mussel. Officials have stepped up prevention efforts and boat inspection stations at major lakes since 2008.
Montezuma County water officials have also increased prevention efforts at area lakes. Starting this year, motorized boats are banned at Totten and Narraguinnep lakes because there are no inspection stations.
At McPhee Reservoir, motorized boat access is restricted to the two boat ramps with inspection stations during open hours only.
Also on Tuesday, Parks and Wildlife officials and the Montezuma County sheriff were notified of an illegal motorized bass boat on Totten Lake. The Durango boaters were forced to exit the lake and boat was inspected and cleaned on site, officials said.
“It was an innocent violation because the gate was not up yet, and he was not ticketed,” said Ken Curtis, and engineer with the Dolores Water Conservancy District, which manages Totten and McPhee.
A gate has since been installed, and signs of the motorized boating ban will be installed in coming days.
Mussel larvae can live in standing water of boat engines, and adults attach to hulls and engines. All boats should be drained, cleaned and dried before entering any waterway and after leaving.
Lake authorities are on high alert because of the mussel risk.
“These things are a real concern. That’s why we have our antennae up and want to take control of the situation,” Lewandowski said. “The houseboat came from contaminated Lake Powell, and we know a lot of boaters from there come here.”
Recently a boat at Ridgway Reservoir was intercepted with mussels attached to it.
A specific list of hand-launched, nonmotorized, boats are allowed on McPhee, Totten and Narraguinnep lakes. They include kayaks, rafts, belly boats, windsurfer boards, sailboards, float tubes, inner tubes and paddle boards.
Nonmotorized boats on the exempt list are allowed to be launched anywhere. However, if an exempt boat is launched via a trailer, it must go through an inspection station because a trailer can be contaminated with a mussel from another lake.