Invasive species found in Highline Lake

Stop the spread of Zebra Mussels (stock photo)
Stop the spread of Zebra Mussels (stock photo)
Published: Sep. 18, 2022 at 12:12 PM MDT
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LOMA, Colo. (KKCO) - The Colorado Parks and Wildlife and state officials have confirmed the presence of zebra mussels, an invasive species, in Highline Lake State Park located north of Loma, Colorado.

CPW found a single adult mussel on a piece of substrate (PVC pipe) in the lake during routine inspection for invasive species on September 14, 2022. Two CPW experts confirmed the species through visual and genetic confirmation methods. CPW has increased their monitoring of Highline Lake for all stages of invasive mussels.

Boats launching into Highline Lake are subject to inspection and decontamination protocols before launching.

When leaving, boaters planning to return to Highline Lake will be issued a green seal and blue receipt that indicates it was previously used on a body of water that contains a known aquatic nuisance species (ANS). If planning to launch in a different body of water, boats must be decontaminated by a certified professional before it can launch.

Boaters should anticipate a decrease in ramp hours and an increase in exit wait times for the remainder of the month. Highline Lake closes to all surface-water activities annually on October 1.

“We know this is an extra step for those who have come out to enjoy recreating on the lake, but staying vigilant has proven to be effective throughout Colorado,” said CPW Northwest Region Manager Travis Black.

This is the first time an adult zebra mussel has been found in a body of water in the state of Colorado, however eight different reservoirs have been suspect or positive for mussel veligers, the larval life stage of the mussel, since 2008.

“Although this is very troubling, it’s important to keep in mind that the lake is not considered infested, a designation given only to bodies of water that have extensive and reproducing adult populations,” said CPW Invasive Species Program Manager Robert Walters. “At this point, CPW has detected only a single invasive mussel at Highline. We will continue to monitor throughout the fall to get a more complete picture of the species’ presence in the reservoir.”

“This is an unfortunate discovery, and something we have been working very hard to prevent,” said CPW Acting Director Heather Dugan. “It shows why we need a robust inspection program. As more and more people move to or visit Colorado and use our water resources for boating, we must continue to work hard to prevent the spread of these harmful invasive species. We cannot overstate how serious this is.”

All ballast boats, inboard and inboard/outboard engines must have a green seal in between launches or decontamination may take place prior to launching.

Boaters are encouraged to inspect their own boat between every use and make sure it is clean, drained, and dry.

The State of Colorado requires inspections if a boat has been in any body of water outside of Colorado, if a boat has been in a body of water that is positive of suspect for ANS, or if the boat will be entering a body of water where inspections are required.

“This situation demonstrates the importance of following the law and going through the required inspection and decontamination process upon entering and exiting bodies of water,” said Reid DeWalt, Assistant Director for Aquatics, Terrestrial and Natural Resources with CPW.

Inspection and decontamination have been proven to be important to keep Colorado waters and water recreation safe in Colorado.

To learn more about zebra and quagga mussels, visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.