Keeping Colorado mussel free

musselHB 18-1008 recently passed a key hurdle by passing out of the Senate Finance committee on a 4-1 vote. A product of the Water Resources Review Committee, the legislation  helps to ensure continued funding of Colorado Aquatic Nuisance Species program (ANS) and protection of the state’s lakes and reservoirs. The program was first implemented in 2008 to prevent the introduction of zebra and quagga mussels by inspecting watercraft before they enter our waterways.

Due to the volatility surrounding Colorado’s severance tax revenue in recent years, the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife determined that using this revenue as it primary funding source left the program vulnerable and unable to confront the very real dangers an infestation might cause. The Mussel-Free Colorado Act provides a stable funding source of $2.4 million for the ANS program every year by requiring boat owners to purchase an ANS stamp ($25 for residents and $50 for non-residents).

After quagga mussel larvae were discovered in Green Mountain Reservoir in Summit County last summer, the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, state legislators, and local governments across the state acquired a heightened sense of urgency regarding the safety of our waterways and water infrastructure from these invasive species.

Zebra and quagga mussels are not native to the nation’s rivers, lakes and reservoirs and are considered our most serious aquatic nuisance species threat. They cause enormous problems for municipal water infrastructure by attaching to, clogging and impairing water storage, treatment and distribution systems.

Thus far, Colorado’s reservoirs have been able to resist a mussel infestation thanks largely to this vigorous inspection program. In states where infestations have occurred, controlling the damage that mussels inflict on municipal infrastructure becomes a permanent and expensive part of normal operations costing millions of dollars annually.

Without this important program municipalities and municipal water providers will be placed in the very difficult position of risking an infestation in its reservoirs or closing them off to recreational boaters entirely. With the recreational boating community contributing over $800 million to Colorado’s economy each year and much of those dollars going directly back to cities and towns in close proximity to these reservoirs – neither is a good option.

Fortunately, HB 18-1008 has received broad bipartisan support in both chambers of the general assembly with both parties acknowledging the importance of this program. CML will continue to support the legislation going forward and expects to see the legislation on the Governor’s desk in the next couple of weeks.

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