Nearly every member of Colorado’s congressional delegation has signed a letter to the Trump administration seeking its help with the emerging crisis of tiny invasive mussel larvae found in Green Mountain Reservoir.
News broke last month that the quagga mussel larvae were discovered in the Summit County body of water. The mussels, when grown, can clog pipes, harm fish and hamper hydroelectric power generation.
Once an outbreak begins, it often spreads quickly and can be hard — if not impossible — to stop.
“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 delegation wrote to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. “A rapid response is critical during the window of opportunity immediately after the detection of invasive species.”
The letter, dated Thursday, was signed by U.S. Sens. Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet, as well as U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette, Scott Tipton, Doug Lamborn, Jared Polis, Ed Perlmutter and Mike Coffman.
U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Weld County, was the only member of the delegation who wasn’t a signatory.
“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 letter said. “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.”
Zinke is from Montana.
Green Mountain Reservoir, which dams up water from the Blue River north of Silverthorne, is an important water source for northeast Colorado.
A hydroelectric power plant at the base of the reservoir’s towering dam is one of six in the Colorado-Big Thompson water network. It generates enough electricity to power 68,000 homes.
State wildlife officials have said a boat in waters outside Colorado could be responsible for the larvae in the reservoir.
Tiny mussel larvae, known as veligers, have been found in Colorado before. Lake Pueblo, for instance, tested positive for them in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011.
Biologists, however, have never found an adult zebra or quagga mussel in any Colorado lake or reservoir.
Lake Powell, which straddles Utah and Arizona, was quickly ravaged by a mussel infestation after one was discovered in 2016. Boats and other watercraft can quickly spread the invasive species.
State lawmakers during the past legislative session cited the threat of invasive mussels as one reason why they voted down a proposal to allow sea planes on Colorado’s bodies of water, saying they could act as long-range vehicles for the species.
“A swift response now will limit future costs that would result from the long-term management of an invasive mussel infestation in Colorado,” the letter ended.