Grand County commissioners discuss local health inspections | SkyHiNews.com

Grand County commissioners discuss local health inspections

Grand County Commissioners discussed the possibility of localizing health inspections, a recent trend in Colorado counties. If Grand County were to move forward with the proposal, it could have its own environmental health inspector rather than a state inspector. Other options include working with neighboring counties to localize health inspection efforts and leaving Grand County's environmental health inspections in the state's hands. "Some counties use a state inspector and some use an inspector from another county," said Kathleen Matthews, director of Planning and Partnerships of the Department of Public Health and Environment for the State of Colorado, "particularly in small counties where there is never enough dollars or need to have full time inspectors and full-time environmental health programs." "We always add another category to rural, urban, and frontier counties and that is the resort counties," she continued, "because when you have a lot of tourism, camps, festivals, etcetera, there is a lot of work around environmental health. Even though a population of a county might not be so large, the actual work involved in environmental health can be pretty substantial." Grand County currently has about 200 restaurants that require inspection and a number of other establishments such as schools that require inspections. It was estimated that around 275 health inspections take place in Grand County in a year. "We have been trying to move this into more locally provided services for a couple of reasons," Matthews said. "Its not just about coming in and inspecting restaurants if you had one that was having trouble, it is that there is someone there who can help with training." A localized inspection would include retail food services and school laboratories, to monitoring water and air quality as well as responding to health emergencies such as an outbreak of salmonella. "We are not here to protect the environment per se, that's not our primary goal except that the environment and its health affects human health," said Dan Hendershott, Environmental Health Manager in Summit County. "Fifty to 60 percent of our job involves what we call the consumer protection program, which is currently being provided by the state in your county. That includes retail food, child care inspections, and school inspections." "With inspections at a local level, inspectors would be able to establish positive and trusting relationships with restaurant owners," Hendershott said. "This would help them to educate the owners instead of purely regulating the restaurants, which would ultimately help to produce compliance with health standards. "The fastest way we can have compliance is through education and not only telling them what they have to do, but also why its important for them to do it," he said. With inspections in the hands of the state, restaurants do not receive individualized attention as they would if the inspections were localized, according to Hendershott. "I know the commissioners have had that concern about restaurant inspections for awhile now," said Grand County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran. "We had a couple of pretty stark examples of the regulatory hammer." But the commissioners may not be willing to add more government, she said. "First of all, (we're) trying not to create another department or another arm of government because that is not what people are asking of [the Commissioners] right now, they're actually asking them to reduce that," she said. "Have we heard a desire from our constituents that this is something they want?" asked Grand County Commissioner Chair James Newberry. The commissioners asked if it could be a possibility to send out a questionnaires to local restaurant owners with information about the possible change to the way inspections are conducted, to see whether it would be something they would want. "I think we need to know if there is a need or a want for it in Grand County before we really go any further on it," said Grand County Commissioner Merrit Linke. While there would be some possible funding mechanisms through the Public Health Act if the county were to move forward, the county would also look at neighboring counties to see if there would be a possibility of working towards a localized environmental health inspection service corroboratively. Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334

Grand County mulls localizing restaurant inspections

Grand is one of only four counties that relies on the state to conduct its restaurant inspections, and commissioners will be exploring ideas on how to provide those services locally. Restaurant owners in the county's west end had initially approached commissioners, complaining that health inspections from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment were inconsistent. On March 31, Commissioner Merrit Linke, Commissioner Gary Bumgarner and County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran attended a meeting with state health officials to bring these concerns to their attention and develop a resolution. While commissioners described the meeting as productive, they also learned they were one of only a handful of counties still depending on the state to do restaurant inspections. "It was a little bit of a surprise," Linke said. "There are only four counties that still have the state do the restaurant inspections, us, Jackson, Moffat and Garfield." According to Jeff Lawrence, CDPHE's division director for environmental health and stainability, the state had taken on the responsibility of conducting inspections for many of the state's rural counties decades ago. That all changed in 2008, when Colorado legislators passed the Public Health Act. "Basically, the base message was that it didn't matter which county you reside in, the level and expectation of services should be the same," Lawrence said. Several counties figured they could best provide the new uniform set of standards locally. Most recently, six counties in the San Luis Valley banded together to provide restaurant inspection services regionally so they no longer have to use state inspectors. Commissioners in Grand County could do the same with nearby counties in the northwest. "We are considering it," Linke said. "The state didn't come right out and say it, but it seems that's what they want to happen. They want counties to do it themselves." Lawrence said that's because counties are better able to address their residents' needs. "We believe (inspection services) would be better provided at a local level," he said. "When we go to these communities, we go out of our Denver office, so to respond to issues brought forward is sometimes difficult." The state department isn't pushing any change, however, and Linke said commissioners will need to consider the feasibility of a transition to local inspections. "The downside is in Grand County, it involves a lot of driving," Linke said. "It would require an additional staff person and an additional salary." According to Lawrence, restaurant inspections for the state's four lingering rural counties amounts to one full-time equivalent staff, although the responsibilities are typically divided between two or three people in his office who have other duties as well. Grand County has around 175 retail food operations spread out through the county, most requiring inspections twice a year. CDPHE would provide some funding to Grand County if it took over its own restaurant, child care and school inspections, amounting to about $58,000. The state would provide another $5,000 if Grand and Jackson counties partnered up on those inspections. The state would also provide a data system, computer and training for a local inspector. For the time being, as CDPHE continues to send inspectors to rural northwest areas, Grand County commissioners seem to have reached an agreement on the inconsistent inspection results gnawing at restaurant owners in the Kremlling area, who have a different inspector than restaurants in the east end. "We want more dialogue, not regulation, and for inspections to be more educational," Linke said. "I felt like we made progress … I think there was productive, good dialogue." Among the improvements CDPHE is looking at implementing is providing a checklist for restaurants so owners know what they need to do to stay up to snuff. They'll also be working to train inspection staff so they are able to arrive at the same conclusion in the same types of inspection situations. "What we discovered through dialogue is being able to communicate those needs in a manner not viewed as burdensome or problematic," Lawrence said. "It's just trying to work and collaborate with each other so we reach the shared desired outcome of safe food." Leia Larsen can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.

Electrical inspector decides not retire

The town of Grand Lake has rejected an electrical services bid from SafeBuilt, LLC, a private building department services company. Approached by SafeBuilt with a proposal to manage overall building inspections, the town of Grand Lake opted to separate out consideration of SafeBuilt’s proposal for electrical inspections, since an annual deadline to sever the state’s service is Sept. 30. It was rumored Bob Shirley of Hot Sulphur Springs, the state’s regional inspector for the area, was thinking of retiring. This notion of losing a locally based and long-standing state inspector motivated not only Grand Lake but also Grand County to reevaluate its electrical services. The county has pondered taking on inspections in-house by hiring a certified electrical inspector and cross-train a residential inspector for back-up. But news of Shirley’s retirement changed by Monday, when in a conversation with him Commissioner Nancy Stuart found out Shirley had decided to remain on for two more years “due to the economy,” she said at last week’s Grand Lake Town Board meeting. Shirley’s decision to stay on longer with the state prompted the county to postpone its plans to take on electrical inspections. “I know it’s going to happen eventually, just don’t know if it’s going to happen right now,” said Grand County’s Building Official Scott Penson to Grand Lake trustees. He stressed that even if Shirley were to retire, the state would continue to service electrical inspections in Grand Lake and the county with another inspector, so Grand Lake would not be left hanging were it to decide it wanted to continue using the state for this service. Grand Lake’s trustees voted unanimously to remain with the state inspector rather than “fix something that’s not broken.” Trustees said the town has not had any problems or complaints from electricians on inspections done by the state. ” To reach Tonya Bina, e-mail tbina@grandcountynews.com or 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.

Don’t move a mussel, have boats inspected

Non-native zebra mussels – small barnacle-like mollusks with dark and light colored stripes and their look-alike relative, the quagga mussels – can clog pipes, valves, gates and any water-related equipment or surface. They can ruin boats by jamming equipment, cause motor damage, and they can destroy fisheries by consuming nutrients, wrecking aquatic food chains. They spread very quickly and attach themselves to boats and aquatic plants carried by boats, and when boats are trailered from lake to lake, the mussels spread to new fresh-water homes. It’s for this reason, trailered and motorized crafts will be subject to Colorado Division of Wildlife boat inspections at 200 locations statewide. In 2009, inspectors checked more than 400,000 boats, conducted 3,300 decontaminations and intercepted 19 boats encrusted with invasive mussels entering Colorado from other states. This year, inspectors have already intercepted seven contaminated non-resident vessels, causing great concern for officials. “Boats trailered here from other states pose the greatest threat to our lakes and reservoirs,” said Elizabeth Brown, DOW invasive species coordinator. “Any one of these encrusted vessels could have introduced mussels to a new location in Colorado. This is why it’s imperative that inspections continue and the boating community continues to support the watercraft inspection program.” Boats launched on any Colorado lake or reservoir where mussels have been detected must pass an inspection prior to launching at a new location.    Colorado lakes and reservoirs testing positive for zebra or quagga mussels include Lake Pueblo, Lake Granby, Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain, Willow Creek, Jumbo (Logan County) and Tarryall reservoirs.  Biologists consider Blue Mesa Reservoir “suspect” for the presence of zebra and quagga mussels and monitoring and testing are ongoing. In Grand County, most DOW boat inspections are available at public boat ramps seven days a week, starting May 14 throughout the summer. When inspectors are absent, boaters must be responsible for cleaning, draining and drying boats before launching. Boat inspections and high-power washes are necessary to prevent the non-native aquatic nuisance species from destroying Colorado lake habitats. Mandatory inspections are limited to trailered watercraft. Hand-launched crafts, including kayaks, rafts, canoes, sailboards and belly boats, pose a low risk for spreading nuisance species and may launch without an inspection. Owners of hand-launched craft are strongly encouraged, however, to adhere to Clean, Drain and Dry practices to further minimize risks. Beginning in May, select DOW offices, state, federal, county and municipal reservoirs and a number of private marinas and boat dealers will offer state-certified inspections and decontamination services. Publicly operated inspection sites are free-of-charge and privately operated service providers are fee-based. Prices may vary among vendors.  Boaters are encouraged to obtain a “green” seal and corresponding receipt before leaving inspection sites. Green seals validate prior inspections, allowing boaters to launch more quickly at reservoirs. Boaters who have completed inspections at other locations are required to stop at reservoir inspection sites to have seals and receipts verified, and to ensure vessels are clean and dry.     State law enforcement officers are also on the lookout for boats carrying mussels or other invasive species across state lines.       “Contaminated boats unlawfully entering Colorado waters is something we take very seriously,” said Jay Sarason, DOW chief of law enforcement. “Willful violations can result in vessel impoundment along with tickets issued to the operator.”

Mussel concerns lead to mandatory boat inspections, closed boat ramps this summer

Boat inspections and changes in boat-ramp accesses are part of new Colorado Division of Wildlife policies to control the spread of invasive quagga and zebra mussels throughout Colorado. For the “Great Lakes” region of Grand County, the Hilltop boat ramp near the canal that connects Shadow Mountain Reservoir to Grand Lake will be closed to all trailered watercraft for the entire 2009 season. And at Willow Creek reservoir, where low-wake boating used to be accepted, motorized boats and any boats that are trailered will not be allowed. Only hand-launched non-motorized crafts will be allowed on Willow Creek. Lake Granby, Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Willow Creek Reservoir are all lakes where mussel larvae have been detected; thus mandatory boat inspections will be required upon leaving these lakes. Boats being launched that do not bear evidence of a certified boat inspection elsewhere will also be inspected. At public boat ramps ” Sunset Point, Stillwater and Arapaho Bay on Lake Granby; Grand Lake public boat ramp near Grand Lake’s east inlet; and the Green Ridge boat ramp on Shadow Mountain Reservoir ” DOW personnel will be conducting boat inspections of boats from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, starting May 15. Ramps will be open to nighttime use. However, boaters are required to follow the “Clean, Drain and Dry protocol” when inspectors are not present and must have vessels inspected at a state-certified site before launching in any other Colorado lake. “Boaters cannot launch anywhere without getting an inspection first,” said DOW spokesperson Jerry Neal. Colorado law prohibits the possession and transport of any aquatic nuisance species in Colorado. Inspections are free Free inspections and decontamination with hot-water/hot-pressure units will be offered at the lake inspection areas as well as at the DOW office at 346 Grand County Road 362 in Hot Sulphur Springs, he said. Boaters who have successfully passed a state-certified inspection will receive a green seal and receipt. Boaters must have both the seal and receipt in their possession before they may launch at a new location. Hand-launched crafts, including kayaks, rafts, canoes and belly boats, are not considered high risk for spreading aquatic nuisance species and may launch without an inspection, according to the DOW. For Grand County motorboating lakes where mussels have not been detected, at the Williams Fork Reservoir, the west boat ramp will be closed the entire 2009 season, and all ramps will be closed at night. Overnight beaching of watercraft is prohibited. Wolford Mountain Reservoir, which opened to boat launches on May 1, also has mandatory boat and trailer inspections for mussel contamination from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. Lake officials at Wolford will only accept green seals from Dillon Reservoir. A boat decontamination area is located in the back of the Day Use parking area at the reservoir. Private launch sites Those with private boat launches in Grand County, all permitted by the U.S. Forest Service, will be required to provide inspections if they plan to continue public boat-launching services. Private watercraft inspections will be free at the Grand Elk Marina boat launch on Lake Granby, according to manager Mike Dixon. The marina will be working with the DOW or independent contractors to provide decontamination services primarily at the end of the season when most people are removing their boats. Launching fees are expected to remain the same, he said. At Beacon Landing, staff members are getting certified to perform inspections, but whether inspections will affect launching fees is yet to be determined. Owners of the Highland Marina could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. Mussels multiply quickly and can clog water works at dams and foul up boat mechanics. In recent years, the mussels have spread to the West from the Great Lakes region. In the last year, they have been discovered in four Grand County lakes and in Blue Mesa Reservoir, at the Jumbo State Wildlife area, at Lake Pueblo and at the Tarryall State Wildlife area. “It’s up to each individual boater to make sure they are following the Clean, Drain and Dry protocol. The success of this program relies strongly on the watercraft owners acting responsibly,” said DOW Fisheries Chief Greg Gerlich. ” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@skyhidailynews.com.

DOW offering free boat inspections to Grand County residents on Saturday

GRANBY – The Colorado Division of Wildlife will perform free end-of-year boat inspections and decontamination services for Grand County residents who have boats moored on Lake Granby, Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Grand Lake. Inspections will be conducted at the Grand Lake public boat ramp 8 a.m. to noon and at the overflow parking lot near the Sunset Point boat ramp at Lake Granby from 1-6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 9. “Many residents are now getting ready to take their boats out of the water for winter,” said Elizabeth Brown, DOW invasive species coordinator. “We want to accommodate them by providing additional inspection services, making this process as fast and convenient as possible.” Residents are encouraged to have boats inspected prior to placing vessels in winter storage. Following an inspection or if necessary, decontamination, vessels will receive a “green” seal and receipt, enabling boaters to launch more quickly next spring. Regular inspection stations will remain open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week until Oct. 31, for boaters who plan on leaving vessels on the water until the very end of the season. The DOW’s watercraft inspection program is part of an ongoing effort to stop the spread of zebra and quagga mussels and other aquatic nuisance species in Colorado. Under Colorado law, all boats launched on any waterway where invasive mussels have been detected must pass a state-certified inspection prior to launching at a new location. Lakes and reservoirs testing positive for mussels include: Lake Granby, Shadow Mountain Reservoir, Willow Creek Reservoir, Grand Lake, Blue Mesa Reservoir, Jumbo Reservoir (Logan County) and Tarryall Reservoir state wildlife areas.

Granby could save $75,000 by contracting out building inspections

The town of Granby is looking into contracting with Safe Build, a company formerly known as Colorado Inspections Services, to conduct building inspections within the town. The company may be able to lighten the burden on town staff, says Mayor Ted Wang, and generate an estimated $75,000 for the town in the first year, according to the town’s 2008 budget. With Safe Build doing inspections rather than the county, a cost-sharing could be negotiated, town officials say. The budget reflects $350,000 in the town’s coffers with an expense of $275,000. Currently, the county collects building permit fees for inspecting construction projects in Granby. Granby staff members conduct zoning and setback inspections. Electrical inspections are conducted through the state. Town employees are still exploring how the process would work and how much of town responsibilities would be handled through Safe Build, but signing on with the private inspection company means the town would sever its partnership with the Grand County building department. Grand County Building Official Scott Penson and County Commissioner Nancy Stuart attended the Granby Town Board meeting Tuesday night to invite the board to ask questions of the county. Penson said he had been requesting an update about Granby’s intentions since January, but to no avail. Mayor Ted Wang said the town’s gain would be keeping 25 percent of all permit fees and consumers would gain a faster turn-around on inspections and a more streamlined process. As many as 22 communities are using Safe Build’s services. The mayor credited Howard Howland, Winter Park’s building official who is transitioning to becoming the company’s area inspector, for having local knowledge. Penson said the county’s turn-around time is currently two weeks, although he’s seen four weeks if there are zoning hang-ups. Trustee Ken Coatney quoted information the town was given by Safe Built, saying its building permit inspections take five days. Penson and the commissioner humbly asked that if the town gives the county notification, it allows ample time for the county to adapt. “I would just hate for it to be something that will cost more money to the people who are trying to build,” Stuart said Thursday. She estimates Granby accounts for 30 percent of county building department revenues. She said she would disagree with Granby’s motives “if it’s meaning that it’s going to cost more for people building homes, especially with the economy and that we’re going to see a slow-down with the second homes. But it’s certainly up to the town if they want to.” ” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@grandcountynews.com.

Beefer madness: pot jerky maker eyes Aspen Business Center

Here's some marijuana news to chew on: A Front Range meat-production plant has designs to ship some of its products to a location at the Aspen Business Center, where the meat will be infused with cannabis for distribution to recreational and medical marijuana dispensaries. Among its cannabis-inspired offerings: jerky, dried sausage, beef sticks, smoked salmon and chocolate-covered bacon. One of the business' principals, John Conlin, said Thursday that this latest marijuana incarnation is the first of its kind. "If you follow the marijuana industry, pretty much with every product, someone has infused it with marijuana," he said. "It's across the board, but we should be the first in the world for this." The products would be distributed to marijuana dispensaries, and they wouldn't be sold from the Aspen Business Center location. Collienti Enterprises, which owns The Sausage Queen, will go before Pitkin County commissioners May 27. Conlin said The Sausage Queen already has obtained its state license to manufacture the products for recreational and medical marijuana users. It still needs county approval, since the Aspen Business Center is under Pitkin County's jurisdiction. North Denver Sausage Co., located in Adams County, is where the meats are produced and inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. North Denver Sausage already is a well-established business. Its owner of 32 years is Katherine Laurienti who, along with High Mountain Taxi owner Todd Gardner, are partnering with Conlin on the project. Gardner is providing space in his High Mountain Taxi building at the Aspen Business Center. "The biggest burden that most people have in getting in the industry is real estate," Conlin said. "But one of my partners happens to own a building in Aspen." Once the meat passes inspection, it will be sent to Aspen to be infused with cannabis, Conlin said. He said he'd like the USDA to inspect the finished marijuana products, but because the federal government outlaws pot, that won't happen. "Our facility … will not be USDA inspected, though not by our choice, (USDA inspection of cannabis-related food items cannot occur until the federal government changes its treatment of marijuana), we will operate them in full accordance with all other USDA, state and county meat production rules and regulations," says The Sausage Queen's application to the county. "We look forward to being able to have full USDA inspection of our entire production process, hopefully in the near future." Conlin, who lives in Littleton and is a consultant for the beer and beverage industry, said, "it's an interesting time" for the marijuana trade. "We have something written into the state constitution as an individual right, and at the same time we have the federal government," he said. "It's kind of like gay marriage with the disconnect. It will take some time to get the laws into sync." Colin said he's unsure of the production levels. That will depend on how many dispensaries line up for the product. The Aspen facility has plans to hire two to four full-time employees. rcarroll@aspentimes.com

Boat inspections ramping up for summer season

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials are finalizing boat inspections at more than 85 sites around the state, including the Three Lakes area and other reservoirs of Grand County. Although mussel veligers, or larvae, were detected in Lake Granby, Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Grand Lake a few years ago, they have not shown up since, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials. “The good news is that we haven’t seen any new mussel discoveries since 2008,” said Gene Seagle, an aquatic nuisance species coordinator with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “But we can’t let our guard down and assume that problems don’t exist.” Colorado inspectors have already decontaminated two mussel-infested out-of-state boats this year, Seagle said. During the first weekend in April, inspectors at Chatfield State Park stopped a mussel-infested boat that had been purchased in Indiana and brought to Colorado. On April 10, inspectors at Lake Pueblo State Park inspected a boat that had come from Wisconsin and was carrying mussels from the Great Lakes region. Both boats were decontaminated before being allowed to enter Colorado waters. More than 200 inspectors have already received training this spring with more training sessions planned before Memorial Day weekend, the official start of the boating season in the state. Trained inspectors will be stationed on boat ramps around the state throughout the boating season. Inspectors are watching for all aquatic invasive species such as zebra and quagga mussels, New Zealand mudsnails and Eurasian watermilfoil. The inspectors also work to prevent the movement of water from lakes or reservoirs to other bodies of water as microscopic young mussels, not visible to the human eye, could be accidentally moved in live wells, anchor basins or other places on a vessel where water can accumulate. The aquatic nuisance species could do substantial damage in Colorado if they become established. These invaders typically can’t be controlled once they get introduced and have cost other states billions of dollars to continue operating water distribution systems to homes, farms and businesses. The first significant aquatic nuisance species detection in Colorado occurred in 2007, with the discovery of zebra mussel larvae in Pueblo Reservoir at Lake Pueblo State Park. The Colorado General Assembly allocated funding for a large-scale prevention effort. Colorado’s aquatic nuisance species program has been operating for the four subsequent years. Every year inspectors have stopped boats that were headed into Colorado waters with attached mussels, New Zealand mudsnails, rusty crayfish and invasive plants and weeds. “Each year we get better at conducting the inspections and boaters become more understanding of the need for the program,” said Elizabeth Brown, invasive species coordinator for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Inspectors are better trained than ever before and most boaters are showing up with their boats clean, drained and dried which gets them on the water faster.” Colorado’s aquatic nuisance species program requires that all boats which have been in waters outside of Colorado must be inspected and receive a green inspection seal prior to launching in any water of the state. Parks and Wildlife staff encourages boaters to plan ahead to reduce delays due to boat inspections. Boaters who live in, or are traveling through, Denver, Grand Junction or Hot Sulphur Springs have access to advance inspections and decontamination facilities. These are located at the Parks and Wildlife Northeast Region office at 6060 Broadway in Denver, at the CPW Northwest Region office located at 711 Independent Ave. in Grand Junction and at the Hot Sulphur Springs Area Office, located at 346 Grand County Road 362. These stations are in service weekdays during regular business hours. Advance inspections at these facilities provide a secure green seal that will speed up the next inspection at boat ramps in Colorado. Inspection stations are also available at boating waters around the state.

Grand County agenda focuses on water issues, beetle kill mitigation

Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Lake Granby have been deemed “high priority” in the state for taking action to prevent infiltration of non-native zebra mussels ” and that may mean implementing a boat inspection program when funding becomes available, according to Colorado Division of Wildlife Area Wildlife Manager Lyle Sidener. Sidener made a presentation about zebra mussels during a public information meeting Saturday in Grand Lake, hosted by the town and Grand County commissioners. “Just about everything that depends on water can be affected by these. Agriculture, fisheries, power production, recreation ” and all of those are right here in Grand County, obviously,” Sidener said, adding that the economic impacts of mussels if introduced to the area would be “devastating.” It’s estimated $138 billion is spent each year trying to control the spread of the one-inch Eurasian mollusk. Considered adaptive to fresh-water and formidable survivors, they can multiply rapidly. They adhere to any hard surface in water with byssal threads, encrusting docks, boats, ramps, rocks, even other aquatic creatures. Native mussels can be distinguished from zebra mussels by their lack of those attachment threads, Sidener said. The mussels spread from water body to water body by attaching themselves to any part of a water craft. Native to the Caspian and Black seas, zebra mussels have already taken over lakes in Europe and were introduced to America in 1988 by ballast water from ships in the Great Lakes. Lake Havasu, Lake Powell and Lake Mead are infested, Sidener reported, and last February, zebra-mussel larvae were confirmed to have been found in Colorado’s Pueblo Reservoir. The Colorado State Assembly and Gov. Bill Ritter passed legislation this year to provide funding for lake protection, which will be available in July. In the meantime, the Division of Wildlife is launching its educational message to “Clean your boat, drain your boat and dry your boat” before trailering it to another lake. “Signs should be up before the end of the month on all boat ramps to get the message out,” Sidener said. “Drying can kill the mussels; the problem is, when you go today to Lake Granby, Williams Fork the next, then maybe Wolford the next, that boat is not going to be dry,” he said. “So there’s some things that we need to take into account.” A nationwide campaign called the 100th Meridian Initiative, which began to try and prevent the spread of the mussels past the 100th Meridian, notes that the average boat-drying time in Colorado is up to 40 days during the cooler days of spring and three to five days in mid-summer. Boats must be thoroughly washed with 140-degree water to try and remove the aquatic hitchhikers. The DOW is monitoring what it considers high-risk lakes that have multiple boat ramps, marinas and boats coming from areas affected such as from the Midwest or lakes Mead, Powell and Havasu. “Monitoring has stepped up for the high-priority lakes in the state,” Sidener said. “Inspections can be implemented. We’re hoping when money becomes available in July, there is money for the Division of Wildlife for temporary employees to do inspections on lakes. I don’t know how that’s going to apply statewide, it’s limited money and a limited number of people who we could use for those inspections. I would think there is going to be some level of inspection in the Three Lakes Area, but I can’t say what that might be,” he said. Multiple subjects Zebra mussels weren’t the only topic of interest at Saturday’s meeting. The gathering of mostly a Grand Lake-area crowd covered water matters, forest health issues, erosion/sediment control and emergency management with presentations by county division heads and spokespersons from agencies such as Rocky Mountain National Park, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and the U.S. Forest Service. Rivers Grand County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran explained county taxpayers’ interest in water matters, such as the Denver and Windy Gap firming projects poised to transport more water out of the county, the Wild and Scenic Designation of the Colorado River from Kremmling to Dotsero, the Lower Blue Management Plan, the Vail Ditch and the county-driven Stream Management Plan now entering its third and final phase. The county will have spent $1 million on the Stream management Plan by the end of this year. “So your tax dollars are going to protect the water resources and the things that bring us to Grand County, keep us in Grand County and the things we’re proud of,” Underbrink Curran said. Grand County is in negotiations with both Denver Water and Northern regarding West Slope river health. “Grand County has always believed that with the cooperation of Denver, Northern and the Bureau of Reclamation and all the spigots and pipes that could be connected or could be utilized in conjunction with each other, that we could do a better job at keeping water in the streams at the time that it’s necessary,” Underbrink Curran said. “Denver, Northern and the Bureau of Rec. have agreed that that is something that we should look at as part of the Colorado River Basin proposal.” Lakes The audience was told what many already knew from a Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Grand Lake algae scare last year: Some algae produces toxins. Last year toxic-algae levels measured by the Grand County Water Information Network were considered beyond safe-drinking standards set by the World Health Organization. This year, the lakes will undergo weekly sample tests, Grand County Water Quality Specialist Katherine Morris said. “This year we hope blooms won’t be as bad as in 2007 because we’re two years out from the Shadow Mountain Reservoir drawdown,” she said during a slide show. The county will be testing weekly during bloom season in five water bodies, and an emergency response plan is being developed for drinking water and recreational use. Moreover, according to Morris, samples will be analyzed this year for the chemicals carbaryl and permythrin, pesticides used to fight off mountain-pine beetles. The testing will be done in Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain, Granby and Windy Gap reservoirs, as well as the mouth of the North Fork of the Colorado River. Also regarding lakes, Northern Water Deputy Manager of Operations Brad Wind said the 56-day drawdown of Shadow Mountain Reservoir cost $137,000 in energy to pump water back into Lake Granby two years ago. The drawdown took place on 500 acres to kill off pervasive weeds in the shallow lake. Due to snow cover, some plants survived, but from one assessment, weeds have been reduced, Wind reported. “The algae problem is a concern here; I recognize that, Northern Water recognizes that,” Wind said. “But it’s a concern to users who ultimately receive that water as well. We support the monitoring here, but also monitoring as that water cascades through the Big-Thompson system into the terminal reservoirs.” As Grand County and other organizations fight for an official water-quality standard for Grand Lake at a state-level hearing today, Jaci Gould of the Bureau of Reclamation said Saturday that a pipeline loosely proposed by West Slope lake advocates to divert water to the East Slope, circumventing Grand Lake altogether, is not something the Bureau is considering due to the challenge of acquiring “appropriations from Congress and the authority to do the analyses.” “We are not actively pursuing that as an agency,” she said. Forest health Shadow Mountain residents of Grand Lake didn’t hear what they’d hoped for about treatment plans on the south-shore slope of Rocky Mountain National Park land. They learned there aren’t any. Mark McCutcheon, Park Colorado River District ranger, informed residents that although the Park is doing tree work in high-use areas of its territory, Shadow Mountain, considered the visible “poster-child” of mountain beetle devastation, is a place that both logistically and economically cannot be marked for tree-removal. It is, however, a place targeted for primary fire response, McCutcheon said. “We will, with partners, try to put out that fire,” he said. “There’s only so much we can do with Shadow Mountain,” he said. Park policy has been to treat backcountry territory as wilderness, “to allow Mother Nature, who is kicking our keister, do what she does, and she happens to be weeding her garden right now,” McCutcheon said. An update from U.S. Forest District Ranger of the Arapaho National Forest, Craig Magwire, said the Willow Creek tree-removal project, which would comprise of 18,000 acres of harvesting and hand work, is going to be considered this fall. Meanwhile, the U.S. Forest Service is concentrating on other district projects and is taking out older trees around camping areas. As many as 4,000 trees were removed just this spring in campgrounds, and another 12,000 are planned for removal, Magwire said. “It’s an expensive job to do, as many of you know.” On the county front, Division of Natural Resources Foreman Jennifer Murray told the audience that the beefed-up burn program saw 113 burn days out of 159 available last season with an estimated 5,500 piles burned. That amounts to 13 million cubic-feet of woody debris, Murray said. Federal agencies burned another 1 million cubic-feet, she said. During the peak pile-burn time before the Christmas holiday, 250 piles were burned daily, she reported. The burn season is now closed, save for campfire-sized burns 3 feet-by-3 feet-by-2 feet. Murray also announced that the county’s tree-removal project is in full swing, with priority roads that connect to highways its principal target. County tree-removal in the Grand Lake area will follow the evacuation plan from north to south, taking out all lodgepole trees greater than 4 feet in diameter or standing-dead of another variety, Murray said. “Our goal is to have all primary roads completed by 2010.” ” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@grandcountynews.com.