BASALT - Boat inspections at Ruedi Reservoir east of Basalt could occur daily this summer if hoped-for funds to expand the program materialize.
The inspections, aimed at preventing the unintended introduction of invasive species into Ruedi, have been increasing in frequency each summer since they began in 2009. Last year, the inspection program was in effect about 4 1/2 days a week between Memorial Day and Labor Day, according to Mark Fuller, director of the Ruedi Water and Power Authority.
This year, organizers are seeking a $15,000 grant from Colorado Parks and Wildlife. If that funding is approved in conjunction with other anticipated support, inspections will occur seven days a week this summer, Fuller said.
"It wouldn't be dawn to dusk - it'll just be in the middle part of the day," he said.
The Ruedi Water and Power Authority anticipates receiving $15,000 from the U.S. Forest Service again this year, along with funds from other agencies to match last year's total of $25,000. With added funding from Parks and Wildlife, daily inspections will be possible.
Last year, the program inspected slightly more than 2,000 boats entering the reservoir, while more than 900 inspections were conducted on boats coming out of the lake, the Ruedi Water and Power Authority reported last fall. A private contractor handled the inspections.
While the inspections were negative - no zebra or quagga mussels were found - inspectors intercepted a number of boats that needed cleaning before they were allowed into the reservoir, according to Fuller.
"We had a number of high-risk inspections - boats that had to be cleaned because they had standing water," he said.
The inspections are free. Vessels that have moisture in their bilge or storage tanks, for example, must be cleaned and dried to ensure they are not transporting mussels or their larvae from another body of water.
Meanwhile, study continues on whether the worrisome species of mussels are a threat at Ruedi, according to Fuller. Factors such as the water temperature and the chemical makeup of the reservoir are being analyzed by researchers to determine whether the organisms can survive at Ruedi.
"If we can say with great certainty that we're not going to have to deal with them, we'd be happy not to have the (inspection) program," Fuller said. "We're not there yet."
Zebra mussels and their cousin, the quagga mussel, are voracious, freshwater mollusks that cause costly damage, attaching themselves to boat hulls, motors and water-system intakes, clogging pumps, pipes and outboard motors. Inadvertently transplanted from Eurasia, they have no known predators in the West and can reproduce rapidly.
Go to http://wildlife.state.co.us/Fishing/Pages/MandatoryBoatInspections.aspx for more on the statewide inspection program and requirements for boaters.