DEC Chief: Lake George’s War on Invasives is a Model for Adirondacks, the State
Efforts underway on Lake George to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species could become a prototype for similar efforts on other lakes in the Adirondacks and throughout New York State, says New York State Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens.
“We view Lake George’s effort as a pilot project; the lake is the focus of a lot of attention, which is why we’re giving it extra attention and taking aggressive steps to support its initiatives,” said Martens, who came to Lake George in February to conduct a series of meetings with local government officials, state legislators and lake protection advocates. “While Lake George is unique in many respects, including having the Lake George Park Commission, it’s building a model that can be replicated, at least in part, on other lakes.”
Martens said his meetings with local officials were “all very positive. Not only the lake protection organizations, but the local governments, recognize the seriousness of the threat from invasive species. They see that prevention takes a collective effort. The collaboration is impressive, but I believe this will happen more frequently. Protecting the environment and supporting the economy have always gone hand in hand. People totally committed to environment can work with people totally commited to the economy. Lake George is an illustration of that.”
According to Martens, it’s this collective effort, supported by local funding, aided but not mandated by New York State, that makes Lake George an especially useful model.
That was among the messages advocates and elected officials took away from their meetings with Martens.
“Clearly, the Governor, the Commissioner and their staffs are looking at Lake George through a state-wide lens,” said Eric Siy, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George. “We’ve offered a model approach, and they’re watching us closely as we advance toward mandatory inspections and other measures.”
Because Lake George is a model, New York State officials may be reluctant to support a program mandating boat inspections and decontamination procedures without a thorough review of its costs and benefits, local officials said.
“The Department of Environmental Conservation has some valid concerns about Lake George setting a precedent for new regulations and new funding, but in fact, Lake George is setting a good precedent. Our initiative is local. if the same thing happens in other places, New York’s costs will be reduced,” said Warren County Supervisor Fred Monroe.
“New York State would never have to implement mandatory inspections on every lake,” said Lake George Village Mayor Bob Blais. “But it could say to other lakes, if you want a mandatory program, look at Lake George, look at how they’re doing it.”
The Lake George Park Commission is expected to vote on an Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Plan in April.
“We’re looking at three options: a program that relies upon stewards and voluntary inspections and free boat washing; self-certification, meaning that you’re able to prove you decontaminated your boat; or mandatory inspections and the required decontamination of suspect boats,” said John Pettica, a Lake George Park Commissioner and the chairman of its Invasive Species sub-committee.
No program could be implemented before May, 2014, and until then, local governments and advocacy groups are are taking matters into their own hands, purchasing washing stations for boaters willing to use them, increasing the hours when lake stewards are on duty, promoting public awareness of the dangers of transporting invasives and toughening local laws.
Martens has announced that New York State is supporting those efforts.
“We’re contributing $50,000 in federal funds to the purchase of two boat washing stations, in addition to the $250,000 we announced earlier that will be used to expand the lake steward program, strengthen marine patrols and contain the spread of aquatic invasive species, including Asian clams,” Martens said.
Lake George Park Commission executive director Dave Wick explained how some of those funds will be used.
“As we go through the comprehensive review of the options for a long-term Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Plan, we’re building upon existing programs so that we can have an effective prevention plan in place for 2013,” Wick said. “$20,000 will go to expand the Lake Steward program. $20,000, which we can leverage for another $20,000, will be used to strengthen the Marine Patrol, and $10,000 will fund a third of a more comprehensive public education campaign, which is already the best in the northeast.”
New York State officials have agreed to allow boat washing stations to be erected at Mossey Point and Rogers Rock campground, the two heavily-used launch sites owned and operated by the state, local officials said.
Law enforcement officers, from both the Lake George Park Commission and the Department of Environmental Conservation, will be more visible on the lake and, for the first time, at public launch sites.
“People will see a stepped up presence of officers, not so much to issue tickets as to advise people that the Lake George Park Commission has a law prohibiting the launching of boats carrying invasive species,” said Martens.
According to Dennis Dickinson, Lake George’s Supervisor and the chairman of Warren County’s Invasive Species Sub-Committee, the Board of Supervisors is revising its 2011 law prohibiting the transportation of invasive species to permit the Lake George Park Commission and the Department of Environmental Conservation to enforce the law.
“In the absence of a law compelling you to have your boat inspected, you would have to consent to an inspection. But if the boat is suspect, we’ll be looking for co-operation,” said Dickinson.
“With officers on site, people will have second thoughts about launching a boat that’s been recommended for washing,” said Lake George Park Commissioner Joe Stanek.
According to Emily DeBolt, who helped create the Lake Steward Program for the Lake George Association, all boats, other than those never moved from Lake George, will be recommended for cleansing before being washed. The treatments will be free, she said.
Five portable boat washing stations will be operated at launch sites around the lake, said Dickinson.
Walt Lender, the LGA’s executive director, said he hoped a private launch site in the south basin would be among those hosting a wash station.
Because of increased funding for the program, the stewards will be at the lake earlier in the season and remain in place through September, he said.
With a larger marketing campaign, more boaters than ever ought to be aware even before they arrive at the lake that all boats should be cleaned, drained and dry before being launched, DeBolt said.
“We’re upping the outeach,” she said. “We’re working with a Lake Placid advertising agency to create material that can be used in print as well as digital media.”
According to Walt Lender, Lake George’s 2013 invasive species prevention will be more effective than it was in the past, but not as effective as it would be if a program of mandatory inspections and decontamination was in place.
“Even with stewards monitoring launch sites more extensively than in the past, we won’t get everybody,” said Lender. “There’s a lot of launch time that won’t be covered, and neither will resorts or homeowner associations. And we’ll catch only what’s visible from a prop or trailer; we can’t inspect bilges or live wells. The threat is still there.”
But, Lender added, “I’m hopeful that if it’s visible, we’ll catch anything coming into Lake George.”
Lender said he believed that when the Lake George Park Commission meets in April, it will vote to proceed with a plan to mandate inspections and decontamination if required.
“All the evidence suggests that hot, high pressure washes are the most effective way to prevent the introduction of aquatic invasive species through boating,” Lender said. “I believe that New York State will eventually endorse this approach for Lake George, if not for all other lakes. Lake George merits special protection, as the state acknowledged when it created the Lake George Park Commission so many years ago. It’s not only a state but a national treasure.”