Colorado Lawmakers Request Resources to Prevent Invasive Species Infestation

Letter to Interior Follows Detection of Mussel Larvae in Colorado Reservoir

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Washington, D.C.-, September 28, 2017 | comments

Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and U.S. Representative Jared Polis sent a bicameral, bipartisan letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke urging a rapid response to the invasive mussel larvae detected in Colorado’s Green Mountain Reservoir. Cosigners of the letter include Colorado U.S. Senator Cory Gardner and U.S. Representatives Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter, Scott Tipton, Doug Lamborn, and Mike Coffman.  

In August, Colorado Parks and Wildlife detected invasive quagga mussel larvae in the Green Mountain Reservoir. Invasive mussels threaten water infrastructure that is used for hydropower and is essential to municipal, industrial, and agricultural water users. The mussels also threaten aquatic ecosystems, risking damage to fisheries and the outdoor recreation economy in Colorado and downstream states.

“As a headwater state that is currently free of adult invasive mussels, the detection of invasive mussel larva poses a tangible threat to our economy,” the lawmakers wrote. “We urge you to respond rapidly, deploy available resources, and work with the state and local communities to prevent this initial detection from growing into a full infestation.”

The lawmakers stressed the importance of a response during the “window of opportunity” immediately following the initial detection of an invasive species. They asked Zinke to outline what steps the Department is taking to deploy resources to Colorado and what specific resources and teams it has engaged or intends to deploy.

The lawmakers made clear that without federal resources, “recreational access to these water bodies is at risk.”

“A swift response now will limit future costs that would result from the long-term management of an invasive mussel infestation in Colorado,” the lawmakers wrote.

Last year, Bennet secured a provision in the Senate-passed Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) to expand a program that authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to establish watercraft inspection stations for invasive species in local waterways.

A copy of the letter can be found below and HERE.

Secretary Zinke:

We write to request your assistance in addressing the recently discovered arrival of quagga mussel larva in Colorado’s Green Mountain Reservoir. As you know, invasive mussels can damage water infrastructure that generates hydropower, and provides water to municipal, industrial, and agricultural users. Invasive species also wreak havoc on aquatic ecosystems, damaging fisheries and threatening the outdoor recreation economy in Colorado and states downstream. We urge you to respond rapidly, deploy available resources, and work with the state and local communities to prevent this initial detection from growing into a full infestation.

A rapid response is critical during the window of opportunity immediately after the detection of invasive species. As you know, the National Invasive Species Council has identified steps for the federal government to take when new invasive species are detected, including providing technical and financial support and additional human resources. We would like to know what steps the Department is taking to deploy these resources to support Colorado’s monitoring, identification, inspection, and decontamination efforts. The Department of the Interior has also identified actions to strengthen coordination to address invasive mussels in the west, including rapid response teams to assist states with sampling. Please identify any rapid response teams, or other DOI resources, that have been deployed to respond to this invasive mussel detection in Colorado and might coordinate with state and local entities in this effort.

As a headwater state that is currently free of adult invasive mussels, the detection of invasive mussel larva poses a tangible threat to our economy. The Department of Interior has recognized the importance of preventing invasive mussel infestations in western headwater states, such as Montana where larva was identified in late 2016 and resources were deployed to the Columbia River Basin. Similar to Montana, in Colorado the federal government generally defers to the state on water issues and works in cooperation with the state in operating and managing reservoirs. The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) is also the recreational manager of eight at-risk water bodies in Colorado. We urge these federal agencies to financially and logistically support state activities to prevent the spread of invasive species, such as requiring boats to enter only at inspection stations, providing adequate decontamination facilities, and accelerating efforts to close unauthorized access points. Without support for these efforts, recreational access to these water bodies is at risk. 

We thank you for your timely consideration of this request. A swift response now will limit future costs that would result from the long-term management of an invasive mussel infestation in Colorado.

Sincerely,

cc: National Invasive Species Council; US Forest Service; Bureau of Reclamation; Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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