Westminster city council discussed bringing back boating to Standley Lake at the Nov. 21 study session.
Trailered boats and powered watercraft have not been allowed on Standley Lake since 2019 because of staff direction and an intergovernmental agreement between Westminster, Northglenn and Thornton. The three inked that agreement due to concerns that boaters might bring invasive mussels into the reservoir. Standley Lake is a major water supply for the three cities.
Sarah Borgers, Interim Department Director of Westminster's Public Works & Utilities Department, said Northglenn Mayor Meredith Leighty and Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann had both sent letters to Westminster indicating they would not be supportive of changing the agreement.
At the meeting, DeMott said some councilors at Northglenn and Thornton were unaware of the letters. McNally also said other councilors were not aware.
“I spoke to some of those council members and they don’t know about that letter, so I’m a little frustrated by that, to be frank,” DeMott said. “These IGAs are agreements between bodies of councils, not mayors, those mayors don’t have a right to speak for their councils and I’d be happy to make phone calls to each of them and tell them so.”
However, according to Northglenn Spokesperson Diana Wilson and Thornton Spokesperson Todd Barnes, their councils were aware.
“Council has been advised of/discussed Standley Lake numerous times since the 2019 IGA, including that letter,” Wilson wrote in an email.
“Our council is certainly educated and aware of the issue, but I can't speak to whether "some" council members were unaware of the letter. The letter is consistent with Thornton's position regarding the IGA and this issue. We have had no reason to change our mind's on the issue,” Barnes wrote in an email.
When asked to clarify who DeMott had spoken with, he declined.
City Councilor Rich Seymour echoed DeMott’s statements, saying it's a complicated subject. It has taken many meetings to understand the implications of allowing boating and not all councilors went to each one.
DeMott wants to be sure councilors at all three cities recognize the amount of risk that comes with boating and see which threshold they may or may not be comfortable with.
Many considerations come into play with boating on the lake, said Shonnie Cline, senior scientist and communications strategist for Corona Environmental Consulting. As a key water supply, some 350,000 people drink from Standley Lake daily. The space also provides recreation and is a wildlife refuge.
Cline presented the security assessment to the council.
Those owning water rights to Standley Lake have a say in what happens to it. Westminster owns about 52%, Thornton 28% and Northglenn 16% and the Farmers Reservoir and Irrigation Company (FRICO) owns 3.5%
Westminster owns the parklands surrounding the lake and is responsible for managing recreation on and around the lake.
The security assessment identified five gaps in protection of the lake: public outreach, emergency preparedness, extreme events (wildfires, floods, contaminant spills,) nutrient loading and aquatic nuisance species.
It’s unclear when boating began on Standley Lake, though it’s known it goes back at least to 1958.
In 1985, the city started the boat permitting process. At that time, 1,200 Westminster allowed permits. In 1989, concerns for water quality due to boating cut those permits in half and the three cities slowly decreased the permits over time.
In 1994, the three cities signed an IGA to continue to reduce the number of permits and restrict jet skis and boats with onboard sanitation devices.
In 1995, the city detected Eurasian Millfoil in the water, which impacted the taste and odor of drinking water. That started the aquatic nuisance species program.
In 2018, 473 permits were sold and then trailered power boats were removed due to violations to the aquatic nuisance species violations in 2019.
A task force also explored ways to allow trailered boats without compromising water quality, but could not reach a consensus. City Councilor Lindsey Emmons accused the task force of having the end goal of taking boats off the lake and not being solution oriented.
She also emphasized that council supports water quality and thinks it’s possible to find a solution that satisfies all parties.
Through the task force, staff and citizens proposed ideas for how to maintain security and water quality. She asked to see how much risk the city would be able to reduce with them.
Last month, Colorado Parks and Wildlife identified a zebra mussel infestation at Highline Lake State Park, which increases the risk to Standley Lake due to both parks being in state.
That impacts economics. Westminster brought in about $480,000 from boating permits, which cost $900 each. However, that doesn’t cover the potential impacts of invasive species. It would cost between $3.2-11.1 million for capital costs to mitigate a mussel infestation and an annual cost of $270,000-3.4 million for annual operation and maintenance.
Not all boats pose the same risk and the city allows hand-launched watercraft, paddle craft, wind-powered sailboats and small electric motors.
Seymour pointed to a new technology emerging of backing boats into a dip tank to kill the invasive species. Borgers said even with technologies to mitigate invasive species — like putting boats through a hot water pool to kill the plants and animals — nothing works 100% of the time.
Borgers said it will take engineering hurdles to decide how much water, where the dirty water will go and other considerations.
Even if Westminster’s council wanted to change the rules for trailered boats, it would need approval from Thornton and Northglenn to make changes to the IGA, until it expires in 2030.