McPhee Reservoir and San Juan National Forest officials are proposing to open the McPhee boat ramp two weeks earlier in mid-April for the 2018 motorized boating season.
But in order to do so, the House Creek boat ramp will close down by Sept. 30, a month early.
The McPhee motorized season was shortened in 2016 due to the threat of quagga and zebra mussels, which have infested nearby waterways, including Lake Powell.
A new policy requires that all motorized and trailered boats be inspected and decontaminated at the McPhee and House Creek boat ramps during the hours of inspection stations. The mussel larvae can survive for weeks in the ballast of boats and engine compartments.
Forest recreation manager Tom Rice explained that based on user data, opening up the McPhee boat ramp earlier in spring would better serve the recreation public.
“We have a limited budget for boat inspection stations, and there is not much use at the House Creek boat ramp in October,” he said. “This is an opportunity to open the lake up earlier.”
Because funds are limited, the House Creek boat ramp is only open Friday through Mondays during the boating season, May through October. The McPhee boat ramp is open daily during the season.
In October, an average of 3.7 boats per day go through the inspection station at the House Creek boat ramp. On some October days, not one boat uses the ramp the entire day, Rice said, but the inspectors are still getting paid.
By cutting House Creek inspection hours, personnel can be allocated earlier in the season to the McPhee ramp, he said.
McPhee is getting more use since Totten and Narraguinnep banned motorized boats because of the mussel threat, said lake engineer Ken Curtis. In 2017, there were 5,283 boat inspections at McPhee, up from 4,836 in 2016.
The McPhee boat ramp has the most use on Sundays in June and July, with an average of 129 and 124 daily users, respectively. The House Creek boat ramp’s highest-use day is on Sundays in July, with an average of 44.2 daily users.
The Dolores Town Board supported the plan to open the lake up early. A comment was made regarding new barriers to prevent unauthorized motorized boat launches installed at the Dolores cemetery and Sage Hen area shorelines this year.
“The biggest complaint we hear is that the elderly can’t drive right up to the lake anymore to fish,” said board member Val Truelsen.
The location of the barriers at the cemetery access to the lake are adjusted as the shoreline fluctuates because of changing lake levels.
Nonmotorized boats such as kayaks, canoes, rafts, sailboards and standup boards are exempt from the McPhee inspection regulations because of their low risk of carrying the mussel. Exempt boats can access the lake from anywhere any time of the year. All boats should be cleaned, drained and dried before entering and after leaving and any lake or river.