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Not all boats may float on Lake Nighthorse

New advisory group may guide decisions
The Durango City Council could limit or phase-in the type of craft allowed on Lake Nighthorse. Motorized boats must be allowed on the lake, but the types of boats allowed could be subject to restrictions.

A citizen advisory group could help guide decisions about the type of craft allowed on Lake Nighthorse.

After receiving a flood of emails, the Durango City Council discussed residents’ concerns and suggestions on Tuesday about high-speed boating on the lake. City Hall was filled with spectators, but they were not allowed to speak during the work session about the lake.

Councilors seemed to support a group that would offer advice on the type of boats allowed on the lake before it opens and management decisions afterwards.

“We need to sort out some nuts and bolts,” Councilor Sweetie Marbury said.

Motorized boating must be allowed on the lake because of requirements attached to the grant that funded infrastructure, but councilors discussed restricting particular types of motorized boats, such as jet skis, or phasing them in.

Councilor Dean Brookie suggested the city slowly add the types of boats allowed on the lake over time. The Bureau of Reclamation has already prohibited open-air exhausted boats and house boats, Parks and Recreation Manager Cathy Metz said. The agency would likely review any other restrictions on types of craft, City Manager Ron LeBlanc said.

While councilors stated they need more time to discuss the issues, none favored delaying the planned opening of the lake, scheduled for April 1. They directed LeBlanc to draft a resolution on the opening of Lake Nighthorse that they could sign next week. Metz also proposed expanding the no-wake zone on the lake’s east side. The no-wake zone would cover 36 percent of the lake, with large no-wake zones on the east and west sides of the lake. High-speed boating would be allowed in the center of the lake, she said.

Marbury said it might be tough for many people to use the no-wake zone on the west side of the lake if former County Road 211 isn’t open for access.

Native American tribes that own water rights in Lake Nighthorse are opposed to opening roads on the west side of the lake at this time, Metz said. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe, the Navajo Nation and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe own the majority of the water rights in Lake Nighthorse.

Motorized boating on the lake has long been a contentious issue. In June 2016, the Quiet Lake Nighthorse Coalition delivered about 1,200 signatures to councilors supporting a 5 mile per hour speed limit on the lake.

Councilors didn’t discuss a speed limit Tuesday, and instituting one would likely be unenforceable, Brookie said in an interview.

Advocates who worked on the petition also encouraged residents to send emails about the issue ahead of the meeting. One of the organizers, Sherry Bowman, said the group felt its concerns were heard at the meeting.

mshinn@durangoherald.com

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