Seaplane ‘splash-in’ near Rangely

Pilot Brad Tousignant lands his Kodiak 100 N23EG seaplane on Kenney Reservoir. Photo special to Sentinel by Margaret Slaugh

As a way to highlight an effort to allow seaplanes to land in lakes on state parks, the Colorado Seaplane Pilots Association sponsored a “splash-in” at Kenny Reservoir near Rangely on Saturday.

Colorado is the only state in the nation that doesn’t allow seaplanes to land in state-owned lakes, but that law doesn’t apply to privately held ones, such as Kenney.

The lake is managed by the Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District. There’s only one other private lake in the state large enough to handle seaplanes. That’s at Lake Meredith in Crowely County in the southeast part of the state.

“Seaplane access has been an issue for the Legislature for the past few years,” said Ray Hawkins, Colorado field director of the association. “The concerns frequently voiced are invasive species and safety. Thanks to the Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District and the citizens of Rangely and Rio Blanco County, we have a unique opportunity to witness firsthand the operation of seaplanes in Colorado, and how these concerns have been addressed and solved.”

During this year’s legislative session, a bill sponsored by lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle — Sens. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, and Nancy Todd, D-Denver, and Rep. Jovan Melton, D-Denver — had trouble seeing the bill advance very far.

It died in the first committee it was heard, the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee, on a bipartisan 7-4 vote.

Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, voted to allow the planes to land on state lakes, but Sens. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, Don Coram, R-Montrose, and Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, voted against the idea.

The bill would have called on the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife to create a pilot project that would have allowed seaplanes to land on at least two lakes located at different state parks, but only if those lakes also allowed motorboats.

The bill would have required pilots to be certified in aquatic nuisance species identification and to self-inspect their planes before landing on a state lake.

The proposed bill also would have required pilots to land their seaplanes at specific airports to be inspected and decontaminated if necessary, tell park personnel before they expect to land in a state lake, and purchase a park pass for the park in which the lake is located.


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