A program to inspect watercraft for non-native invasive species at Colorado Parks & Wildlife-managed waterways is in danger of ending after the program lost its funding source in 2016.
Program funding has been secured through 2018, according to Ed Keleher, CSP park manager for Paonia, Sweitzer and Crawford reservoirs. But if future funding can't be secured, CSP's more than 70 Aquatic Nuisance Species inspection stations could close, resulting in a ban of motorized and other watercraft across the state. Canoes, kayaks, inflatables and devices exempt from inspection would still be allowed on the water.
Through the 2008 Aquatic Nuisance Species Act CPW receives funding for inspection and decontamination of boats at risk of carrying non-native species, including zebra and quagga mussel, New Zealand mudsnail, and Asian carp, as well as pathogens and diseases such as whirling disease. Contamination can result in irreparable environmental and economic damage to streams, lakes and reservoirs. Since they have been introduced in many of the nation's waterways, inspections are required for vessels that have launched in those waterways, and for vessels lacking an intact inspection seal.
The program is funded through an annual $4 million Tier 2 transfer of the state's severance taxes collected on production and extraction of minerals including oil and gas and coal, explained CPW southwest region public information officer Joe Lewandowski.
Following a successful lawsuit by BP America Production in 2016 requiring the refund of millions of dollars in severance taxes, the program was defunded, explained Lewandowski. CPW immediately began working with other water users, municipalities and water companies to secure other avenues for funding.
HB 17-1321, also known as the Financial Stability Bill, would include the creation of a $25 ANS stamp that would be purchased along with annual boater registration fees. The bill is sponsored by District 57 Rep. Bob Rankin and others and recently passed out of the House agriculture committee and is making its way to the Senate.
If the bill passes, the program will be funded for the foreseeable future, said Lewandowski.
Sweitzer and Crawford state parks are scheduled to open to boating on May 1. Depending on the water level, Paonia Reservoir is anticipated to open around Memorial Day, said Keleher. And inspection stations will be manned. For more information about the inspections, visit cpw.state.co.us.