At their meeting May 8, Montezuma County commissioners voted to temporarily close County Road X to motor vehicle traffic because of concerns about invasive mussels.
The road will be closed for at least 30 days near the Sage Hen area, where Road X runs just north of McPhee Reservoir, about a quarter of a mile east of the intersection with Road 25, according to Montezuma County Roads Superintendent Rob Englehart.
Commissioner Larry Don Suckla said on Friday that Bureau of Reclamation representatives were working on closing it.
Commissioner Keenan Ertel said board members visited the site this month and learned that people could drive off the road and access the lake to fish or launch boats.
People doing so along that stretch of road were avoiding boat inspections that are used to detect invasive quagga and zebra mussels, Ertel said.
“We agreed that it was a very vulnerable area,” he said.
Commissioners James Lambert and Suckla voted with Ertel to declare an emergency situation and temporarily close the road. There will be a public hearing on the future of the road closure within 30 days, commissioners said.
Foot, horse and bike traffic will still be allowed on the road. However, Englehart discouraged parking along the side of the county road near that area.
Ertel said the commissioners couldn’t risk the lake getting contaminated. If mussels were to reach McPhee, they could spread quickly and cause damage to irrigation equipment and McPhee Dam.
Englehart agreed with the commissioners that they needed to protect the lake from mussels. However, he said he wasn’t sure closing the road would be best because other people use it, including ranchers.
Suckla said he hoped the board could come up with a solution where the lake is safe for mussels but the road could be left open for constituents who want to use it. He said he hoped county officials would work to find such a solution in the future.
County Attorney John Baxter said county officials would need to install signs letting people know exactly why the road was closed, and which types of traffic would still be allowed on the road.
“We have to limit the scope of access to only what’s necessary,” he said.
Suckla said though mussels are a threat to farmers who irrigate, the commissioners also represent people who want to use the lake for recreation. Commissioners have fought to gain control of the Sage Hen area for several years, Suckla said, so the goal is to protect it.
“We represent everybody,” Suckla said. “I believe as leaders we can figure out a way to protect against the mussels and still have people access the property.”