Next Saturday seaplanes will splash in and lift out of Kenney Reservoir in Rio Blanco County, because the 616-acre body of water is owned by a special district.
The legislature is keeping the iconic wilderness aircraft out of state waters over fears of invasive aquatic species they might transport. Bills to allow them or at least study them have died in the last two sessions.
Colorado is the only state that doesn’t allow and regulate seaplanes on state waters.
Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the 616-acre reservoir five east of Rangely, several seaplane pilots are expected to convene, and some could offer rides on an individual basis. There’s even a community barbecue.
The Seaplane Pilots Association is taking advantage of one the two private lakes where the aircraft can land in Colorado. Kenney Reservoir is owned by the Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District. The other landing spot is Lake Meredith, owned by the Meredith Reservoir Co., in Crowley County.
Last session Senate Bill 235 would have created a pilot program on two lakes to allow the state to study whether they actually pose a risk of transporting invasive aquatic species, a concern that led to the bill’s demise on 7-4 vote before the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee.
In 2016, House Bill 1315 would have regulated seaplanes like motorboats, requiring inspections and stickers for invasive species. That bill died 8-5 in the Energy and Transportation Committee. Both times the votes were bipartisan.
“Seaplane access has been an issue before the legislature for the past few years,” Ray Hawkins, Colorado field director for the Seaplane Pilots Association, said in a statement. “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.”
The seaplanes will and first at Rangely airport to be decontaminated for aquatic species.
Hawkins added, “Whatever anyone’s personal stance on seaplanes, we invite them to join us, see for themselves how the seaplane aviation community operates and have a great time.”