DEC Wants State Launches Open 24-Hours a Day
Even if the Lake George Park Commission votes to prohibit the launching of boats that have not been decontaminated and inspected, New York State’s launches at Mossey Point, Rogers Rock and Million Dollar Beach will still remain open twenty fours a day.
According to state Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens, the exception was made for fishermen.
“It’s a tradition for fishermen to get on the lake before the sun comes up,” he said. “We want to maintain that tradition.”
But if the privilege is abused, or if it appears that a path has been left open for new invasives to enter Lake George, the policy will be revisited, Martens said.
According to the draft of a Prevention Plan released to the public in April, boaters would be allowed to use the launches long after or long before an inspector or steward is on duty. The state would agree to install a surveillance system and subject a boater to fines if the cameras identified his boat as one that has not been inspected.
Walt Lender, the executive director of the Lake George Association, says he has some qualms about 24 hour access, stating, “We are concerned that the potential of less restrictive after-hours regulations will leave the lake somewhat vulnerable,” but he added, “at least the lake would be protected most of the time. We find that there are not all that many boats entering in the early morning hours or late at night. For those who are launching at those times, the responsibility will be on their shoulders to make sure their boats are not moving invasives. They are still accountable to the law.”
Martens and Bob Stegemann, DEC’s Region 5 director, denied the exception for fishermen was made to protect federal subsidies to DEC’s Bureau of Fisheries or to ensure the future of Lake George’s fish stocking programs.
“I’ve heard those speculations; they’re not true,” said Stegemann.
It has been rumored that both programs would suffer if fishermen were denied twenty four hour access to Lake George.
According to Emily DeSantis, a spokesperson for DEC, the department does participate in a federal program through which it is reimbursed for expenses associated with boating, habitat management and education.
“A minimum of 15 percent of those funds must be used to support the boating access program,” said DeSantis.
The funds also help pay for the operatiion of DEC’s fish hatcheries, DeSantis said.
DeSantis also said that it was a policy of DEC to stock only waters accessible to fishermen.
“If a water body does not offer reasonable public access, it is not eligible for stocking,” DeSantis said. “Public access to a given water body is not always a constant, and a substantive change in public access opportunity could trigger a review of the stocking policy.”
The provision permitting 24 hour access from state launches appears in Section 5, page 11 of the draft plan.
The provision was not in a draft of the plan circulated in November, so many have assumed that the provision was inserted at the request of the DEC, perhaps in return for the department’s support for mandatory inspections.
Walt Lender, for example, said “We are realistic and believe that the compromise is worth the risk.”
Martens denied the DEC had insisted upon including the provision within the revised draft plan. He did, however, acknowledge that the plan released in April was developed “in tandem with the DEC.”
Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson said the provision is “ridiculous.”
“People have to understand you can no longer have unbridled access to the lake; for some reason, fishermen believe they should never be inconvenienced. We’ve done too much work here to have something so silly included in the final plan. We’re going to say, ‘no way,’” Dickinson said.
Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover said he, too, opposed allowing the state boat launches to remain open 24 hours a day.
“By keeping the state boat launches open, the inspection program won’t offer the same level of protection as it would otherwise. You’re opening a door to invasives, and that’s problematic. Anything that weakens protection is not something I can support,” said Conover.