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Business owners critical of McPhee plan

Limiting access at House Creek hurts economy, they say
Harvey Baker inspects a boat at McPhee Reservior this past summer making sure it is drained to prevent invasive species.

A plan by McPhee Reservoir managers to block lake access when boat inspectors are absent would hurt the local economy, business owners said Monday.

David Smith, of McPhee Boat Rentals, and Tom Rowell, of the Riverside store and gas station, depend on the House Creek boat ramp for their business.

“It generates a lot of traffic through town, a lot of people use that ramp,” Smith said during the town board meeting.

Beginning next year, lake officials report the House Creek ramp will only be open four days per week, and gated closed at night during May through October boating season.

Managers are working to prevent an infestation of the quagga mussel through a strict boat inspection program.

Boats from infected lakes, such as Lake Powell, can transfer young and adult mussels to other waterways. The invasive species proliferate quickly and attach to irrigation and municipal infrastructure, increasing maintenance costs.

Under the plan, beginning in 2017 McPhee will have more stringent operation hours for trailered, motorized watercraft, which must be inspected.

The McPhee boat ramp will be open with inspectors from May 1 to Sept. 27, seven days per week from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and from Sept. 28 to Oct. 31 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days per week.

The House Creek boat ramp will be open four days a week during the boating season. From May 1 to Sept. 27, the House Creek boat ramp will be open Thursday through Sunday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Between Sept 28 and Oct. 31, it will be open Thursday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Both ramps will be closed at night.

Also the San Juan National Forest will implement a closure order prohibiting motorized, trailered boats from launching anywhere but the House Creek and McPhee boat ramps when inspection stations are open.

Rowell said he understands the mussel problem, but the House Creek ramp needs to be open seven days a week during the boating season.

“People come from all over to House Creek and are expecting to launch their boats,” he said. “Once they find out they can’t do that, they will skip Dolores and go around to the other (McPhee) boat ramp. We will miss out on them buying gas, groceries, and stopping at restaurants.”

It costs about $85,000 per year to operate the boat inspections at the McPhee and House Creek boat ramps at the current schedule. Funding would be needed to expand inspection hours at the McPhee boat ramp into November, and to seven days per week at House Creek ramp, which would cost an additional $42,000, officials said.

To just increase boat inspections at the House Creek ramp to seven days per week would cost an additional $17,400.

Operation costs are divided among Colorado Parks and Wildlife, DWCD, Bureau of Reclamation, and the San Juan National Forest. Reduced federal and state budgets have limited boat inspections, officials said.

Dolores town board member James Biard suggested that volunteers conduct inspections to cut costs and extend hours.

State law requires boat inspections at high-risk lakes for trailered motorized boats. Boaters should drain, clean, and dry their boats before and after entering a waterway. Canoes and kayaks are exempt, but mussels can attach to them or survive in standing water, so users must also take precaution to inspect and clean their boats.

jmimiaga@the-journal.com

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