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Vallecito boat inspections need funding

The Vallecito Conservation and Sportsman Association is trying to raise funds for boat inspections on the reservoir this summer.

Boating access at Vallecito and other Colorado lakes might be threatened by state budget issues.

Jim Schank from the Vallecito Sporting and Conservation Association told the Times, "There's no money for zebra mussel inspections on lakes in the area."

The Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife has been in charge of inspections to prevent introduction of invasive zebra and quagga mussels into clean lakes. People bring boats that have been in infested water, such as Lake Powell, and the mussels can reproduce prolifically and clog pumps, pipes, and other structures.

The Sporting and Conservation Association took over operation of the Vallecito marina two summers ago after the previous private operator pulled out and no other private operator wanted to take it over.

"McPhee (reservoir near Dolores) has put together a group to fund (boat inspections) so they can keep it open," Schank said. "We've met every Wednesday for a month and a half, but we've been unsuccessful at raising funds." They are taking donations at the Rocky Mountain General Store and at the Pine River Irrigation District office.

Park and Wildlife "will match what we raise," Schank said. "Right now it would be Friday to Sunday to have the boat ramp open. There are a lot of people here that rely on that."

He urged people to contact state legislators about this.

Durango Parks and Wildlife Office spokesman Joe Lewandowski told the Times his department isn't definite what sort of match DPW might provide.

"Basically, Parks and Wildlife was funding boat inspection stations around the state for the last 10 years using severance tax money from oil and gas extraction," Lewandowski said. BP sued the state over the amount of severance tax it had been paying, and the State Supreme Court ruled for BP. So the money that was used for boat inspections went away.

DPW is working with irrigation, water, and recreation districts around the state to find a solution, Lewandowski said. "Vallecito isn't the only lake affected. It's lakes all over the state. ... It's a pretty major problem throughout the state. We're as concerned about it as anybody else, to make sure recreation stays open."

Pine River Irrigation District Superintendent Ken Beck told the Times that there have been a series of meetings with the Sporting and Conservation Association, DPW and other entities. "We're trying to generate a fundraising campaign and let folks know that the money we received from CPW has dried up... It took 21 reservoirs out of funding for boat inspections."

He continued, "Last year we had around $48,000 to fund recreation" at Vallecito. PRID budgets dam operation and maintenance functions separate from recreation. Beck noted that Vallecito is an irrigation project. In the past, PRID shareholders have made it clear they don't want their assessments used to subsidize recreation.

The goal is to get $48,000 for this year if local fundraising can bring in $24,000, and hope DPW can match it, Beck said.

He is sending solicitation letters to individuals and entities that could be affected by a lack of boating access.

"We'll continue to meet," Beck said. "We'll fund it and have the lake open. If we don't receive anything, there will be significant impacts."

"We have a clean reservoir now," he said, but noted there have been boats at Vallecito that tested positive for the mussels. "We were able to decontaminate them before they went in the water. ... It's a lot easier to prevent infestation than to remediate. That could get really expensive."