Boat stewards recently intercepted a vessel that had a fast-growing aquatic invasive species attached and prevented its incursion into an Adirondack lake. While officials applaud the successful detection, the interception is also underscoring the need for more resources to prevent the spread of invasives across the region.
On July 29th two watercraft inspectors at the Saranac Inn State Boat Launch found a strand of dried aquatic vegetation on the rear beam of a boat trailer. The boat inspectors removed the material from the boat before it entered Upper Saranac Lake and sent it to a lab at Paul Smith’s College. Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program Executive Director Brendon Quirion says it was confirmed that the plant was hydrilla, an aggressive aquatic invasive plant. “Hydrilla is considered by many to be the Godzilla of aquatic invasive plants. It is probably one of the most, or if not the most, pernicious aquatic invasive plants on the planet. In New York, Cayuga Lake alone has spent multi-millions controlling it.”
This is the first confirmed instance of hydrilla detected and removed in the history of the Adirondack Park's aquatic invasive species prevention efforts. Boat launch inspections in the Adirondacks are coordinated through Paul Smith’s College’s Adirondack Watershed Institute Stewardship Program. Director Eric Holmlund says they are both pleased and concerned. “On the one hand it’s a validation that we are needed and that our stewards need to be vigilant and they will wind up finding these plant fragments. But on the other hand it does make you concerned about the gap when we’re not on duty. Would that boat have gotten through? So it is cause I think both for an appreciation of the DEC’s support of our program and all of our other funders. But also I guess it’s a warning sign for us.”
The SAVE Lake George Partnership says the incident illustrates the need for more resources to prevent the spread of invasives into New York state. The boat and trailer had been inspected by the Lake George Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program and had stickers attached indicating it had passed. Fund for Lake George Executive Director Eric Siy says the catch at Upper Saranac Lake illustrates that luck plays a role in invasive prevention. “It should have been caught long before it ever even arrived at Lake George. And that’s a big part of the challenge right now. This is a boater who was coming from the Potomac River who, much to their credit, stopped to have their boat inspected. They didn’t need to because the only mandatory program is at Lake George. Upper Saranac Lake is a voluntary program. And good for the folks at Upper Saranac that they stopped what could have been a disaster.”
Siy believes the state must invest more resources in invasive prevention. “New York state has the highest density of invasive species in the country. Yet it does not have the strongest program, not by a long shot, for stopping invasives from getting in. This latest incident just underscores the need the imperative to protect our waters and our woods by the way while we still have the chance. Every year we are losing more Adirondack lakes and ponds to invasives.”
There are 60 boat inspection stations in the Adirondack region.