DENVER, Colo. – On Wednesday, January 10, 2018, the Mussel-Free Colorado Act (HB 18-1008), sponsored by the water resources review committee, was introduced in the Colorado Legislature. If passed, this bill will provide a stable funding source of $2.4 million for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) Program in 2019 and beyond by requiring motorboats and sailboats to purchase an ANS stamp. Colorado residents will be charged $25 and non-residents will be charged $50.
In addition, the Mussel-Free Colorado Act will:
- Continue Tier 2 Severance Tax appropriations, when available, to cover the remainder of the $4.5 – $5 million annual cost of ANS program implementation
- Increase fines for ANS-related violations
- Raise the fine for unlawful boat launches without inspection from $50 to $100
- Raise the fine for knowing importation of ANS into the state from $150 to $500 for a first offense
- Allow CPW to charge labor/costs incurred to store and decontaminate intercepted vessels
- Encourage federal partners to take responsibility for ANS inspection funding at their reservoirs
“Zebra and quagga mussels pose a serious threat to our state’s water infrastructure, natural resources and recreation,” said Bob Broscheid, Director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “As a headwater state with no adult mussel infestations, the only way zebra or quagga mussels can get into Colorado is overland by hitchhiking on watercraft.”
The numbers of motorboats and sailboats Colorado inspectors intercept each year which are infested with zebra and quagga mussels continues to rise. In 2017, Colorado inspectors intercepted 26 boats infested with adult mussels coming in from out of state – a new record. Colorado has intercepted a total of 144 boats infested with adult mussels since the ANS Program began.
Zebra and quagga mussels are not native to the nation’s rivers, lakes and reservoirs and are considered our most serious ANS threat. Adult infestations harm aquatic ecosystems and fisheries by disrupting the food web and outcompeting native species. They cause enormous problems for water infrastructure used for municipal, agriculture and industrial purposes by attaching to, clogging and impairing water storage, treatment and distribution systems.
“To avoid irreversible damage and costly control operations in perpetuity, Colorado has implemented an effective watercraft inspection and decontamination program to stop mussel introduction by inspecting watercraft before they enter our waters and ensuring that users clean, drain and dry watercraft,” said Reid DeWalt, Assistant Director of Wildlife and Natural Resources for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “While the problem is getting worse in neighboring states, Colorado’s prevention program is working to keep mussels out of our waters.”
The Colorado ANS Program was authorized by the Colorado Legislature in 2008 utilizing severance tax funds. CPW has leveraged those funds with federal and local grants to fund the ANS Program since inception. However, severance tax is a fluctuating source and federal funds have been reduced in recent years. Long-term funding for the program is uncertain. Sustainable funding for the ANS Program is essential to protect our waters and water infrastructure from irreversible invasion.