Boulder Reservoir Master Plan timeline

Monday: Boulder's Water Resources Advisory Board will discuss the plan.

Nov. 22: Boulder's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board will discuss the plan.

Dec. 7: The Boulder City Council will discuss the plan.

March 2011: The Boulder Reservoir Master Plan is expected to be completed

If a recommendation making its way to the Boulder City Council survives in its current form, jet skis and some types of boats could no longer be allowed on the Boulder Reservoir.

For about a year, the city has been developing options for the future uses of the reservoir through an update of the Boulder Reservoir Master Plan. City staffers initially drafted five options for watercraft, ranging from continuing to allow most types of boats to a total ban on motorized craft.

The option that officials from multiple city departments have agreed to recommend meets somewhere in the middle, allowing motorized boats but limiting their number, type and time of operation.

"We're looking at trying to balance all the goals that we established for the plan, but also to maintain as much diversity in recreational use as we can at the Boulder Reservoir," said Bev Johnson, a project manager for the city.

Johnson said the staff recommendation includes extending "no-wake" times -- when boats are limited to low-powered travel -- from 11.5 hours a week to two full weekdays.

Members of Boulder Community Rowing, a nonprofit rowing club representing more than 100 members, have said the club supports maintaining motorboats on the reservoir but welcomes additional quiet hours when rowers aren't competing with the wakes of larger boats.

The proposal also would limit the number and type of motorboats on the reservoir at any one time to 20 Class I watercraft -- vessels 16 to 25 feet long -- but not have any restrictions on Class A watercraft, which measure less than 16 feet long.

Boat engines would be limited to 500 horsepower, which would effectively prohibit "cigarette" boats designed for high-speed travel.

Jet skis and two-stroke engines would be phased out from the reservoir by 2012 because of concerns about pollution.

"The older (boats and jet skis) tend to be more polluting, and that's where a lot of the oils can come from," Johnson said.

The city would keep jet skis at the reservoir, however, to respond quickly to emergencies on the water.

Max Bowles, a technician at Boulder-based Colorado Powersports, said today's jet skis are almost exclusively four-stroke models that pollute much less.

"All the new ones have way better emission control," he said.

Bowles said customers who come in for personal watercraft don't seem to know about Boulder's proposed rule changes, or at least they aren't talking about them.

Galen Morgigno, president of the Colorado Jet Ski Riders Club, said he thinks Boulder is overstating the problem with jet ski pollution. But he said Boulder Reservoir is a relatively small community park that doesn't get a lot of jet ski use anyway.

"I don't see it being an issue in the jet ski community at this time," he said.

City officials said there is not enough evidence that four-stroke boats are polluting the reservoir to justify banning them.

That has Boulder resident and activist Rob Smoke riled.

"Our City Council and city leaders would be doing a serious ill service to our community by supporting staff recommendations," Smoke wrote in an e-mail this week to city planners and council members. "We have not seriously considered the effects on wildlife, and have absolutely no certification that the motorized boating is innocuous, and plenty of indication that it is not."

Smoke, who has set up the Web site saveboulderres.com, argues that motorboats also lead to increased turbidity, or cloudiness in the water. High turbidity can provide a medium for microbial growth and impair the treatment process for drinking water, according to city documents.

Both the city's water resources and parks and recreation advisory boards still need to weigh in on the proposal, which will head to the City Council for a decision on Dec. 7.

Councilman Matt Appelbaum said he's not sure where the nine-member council will land on boating at the reservoir.

"There did seem to be some interest in saying, 'Look, maybe we shouldn't have motorized boats," he said. "They come at a cost. You have to manage them."

Appelbaum said one of the most important factors in deciding the future of boating in Boulder would be the increasing concern about invasive species that attach themselves to the hulls of boats.

"The fact is that it's such a huge risk," he said. "That alone may drive us to prohibiting boats in some way."

Officials have said invasive mussels, snails and other species have prompted some cities to install a second intake system at water treatment facilities, and can change the water chemistry along with the habitat for native fish and plants.

Contact Camera staff writer Heath Urie at 303-473-1328, or urieh@dailycamera.com.