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Invasive mussels’ risk limits access on McPhee

New gates will be installed; ramp access will be curtailed
Quagga mussels love metal substrate of dams, irrgation pipes and penstocks. If McPhee reservoir became contaminated, maintenance costs would increase significantly.

New gates on McPhee Reservoir boat ramps will be installed this year to help control access and prevent an invasive mussel contamination, managers said Monday.

But at least one recreation business in Dolores says it will hurt his livelihood.

The new plan will limit access for motorized boats to the McPhee and House Creek ramps, and only when boat inspection stations are open.

The ramps will be shut with locked gates when the inspection stations are closed. Currently, boats can launch unchecked after the inspection stations are closed because there are no closure gates.

The Dolores Water Conservancy District, which manages irrigation on the lake, says McPhee is considered high risk for a quagga mussel invasion because of its proximity to Lake Powell, which has been infected by the non-native species.

“The cost to mitigate mussels that attach on irrigation and municipal infrastructure would be hundreds of thousands of dollars per year,” said Ken Curtis, a Dolores water district engineer. “We feel taking preventative action is critical.”

Under the plan, beginning in 2017 the lake would have more stringent operation hours for trailered, motorized watercraft.

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 only be open four days per 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.

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

The closure order will be put in place to make it illegal to launch motorized, trailered boats at the Dolores Cemetery and Sage Hen recreation area, said Dolores District ranger Derek Padilla.

David Smith, owner of McPhee Boat Rentals in Dolores, said he understands why lake managers are taking the action to control access, but said it will hurt his business.

“I was planning on expanding operations, but this plan would make that difficult,” he said. “It will have a negative impact on the House Creek campground because, if you can’t launch your boat when you want, why go?”

Signs will be installed on the Dolores-Norwood Road outside Dolores informing the public of the boat ramp hours of operation. It was noted that boaters who return to the ramp after the gate is locked will have to anchor their watercraft and return when the station is open to retrieve it.

Lake managers said a tight budget of $85,000 per year for boat inspections is a limiting factor for keeping the gates open longer.

If additional funding is found, the priority will be to increase hours, they said.


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