A proposal from the town of Nederland to allow boating on Barker Reservoir met with skepticism from the Boulder City Council on Tuesday night, but council members said they are willing to look at it in more depth.

Just not too much depth.

City Council members raised a range of issues -- from water quality to invasive species to operational issues -- with the proposal, which has not yet been approved by the Nederland Board of Trustees.

The Boulder council members asked that the city's Water Resources Advisory Board look at the proposal and develop "threshold" questions for the town to address, but they said they did not want to spend a lot of city time or resources analyzing the proposal.

There has been interest in boating on Barker Reservoir for decades, but Nederland has launched a more concerted effort to develop a proposal in recent years. The Board of Trustees recently adopted a resolution supporting the idea and seeking to work with Boulder, which, as the owner of the reservoir, would have final say.

Nederland Mayor Joe Gierlach reminded Boulder City Council members of the committees and regional organizations where they had served together and of Nederland's support for Boulder's priorities in the Legislature.

Nederland Trustee Randy Lee, who is also executive director of an organization working on a boating proposal in cooperation with the town, said people in the mountain town need feedback from Boulder before they can more thoroughly develop the idea.


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For example, several Boulder council members expressed concern at the idea of volunteers managing boating operations on a body of water that supplies a third of the city's drinking water. After the meeting, Lee said professional management would be a deal-breaker that would make it impossible for the operation to be self-sustaining.

The question of boating on the reservoir has been contentious in Nederland, with several town residents telling the Boulder council they had concerns about safety and the environment. Others spoke in favor of the proposal and said those concerns could be managed.

Some Nederland residents were pushing for boat access to the reservoir as early as 1988, when a group of wind surfers took to the water to protest the no-boating rule. A decade later, small sailboats, kayaks and canoes were briefly allowed to cut through the waters in Barker Reservoir on the eastern edge of Nederland for five weekends in 1999 as part of a pilot project approved by Xcel Energy, which was then the reservoir's owner.

That idea lost momentum when Boulder bought the reservoir in 2000 and performed a feasibility study, which recommended against boating on Barker.

The proposal faded into the background until 2010, when a new Nederland Board of Trustees made it a priority.

"There is a lot of interest in working with Nederland, but there also are understandable concerns about the issues that were raised, particularly water quality," Boulder Mayor Matt Appelbaum said.