North Country News
2:15 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

Regulations On Invasive Species In Effect At Boat Launches

Spiny water fleas in Lake George
Spiny water fleas in Lake George
Credit Emily DeBolt/Lake George Association

New regulations have gone into effect in New York State requiring boats at DEC boat launches be clear of any plant or animal matter before entering the water. As those rules go into effect, legislation is pending in Albany that would make such “clean, drain and dry” regulations applicable at all boat launches.

It can cost local communities millions of dollars to control or eradicate invasive species. With no state-wide regulations in place, some communities have passed local ordinances in an attempt to prevent infestations and the spread of invasives.  In September 2011, the Warren County Board of Supervisors passed an invasives species transport law. In April 2013, the  Lake George Park Commission approved a Draft Invasive Species Prevention Plan. In the Adirondacks, boat stewards advise recreational watercraft owners to clean their boats before putting them into waterways.

This week, new regulations went into effect making it mandatory that all visible aquatic plant and animal material be removed and bilge be drained before entering and upon exiting state-owned DEC boat launches and fishing access sites.  Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program Director Hilary Smith says prevention is a key strategy.  “Because we know that recreational water craft are a key vector in spreading these, we think that this will be highly effective for helping to reduce the risk of transporting aquatic invasive species.”

Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board Executive Director and Town of Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe described how the town has already spent $400,000 dealing with an invasive in one of their three major water basins. In Lake George, more than $7 million has been spent attempting to control invasive species. Monroe says prevention is the only current solution and supports the bill in the state legislature for statewide spread prevention.  “It’s clear to those of us in Warren County and the rest of the Adirondacks that we need to prevent any new invasives from getting into Lake George.  But we also need to prevent the invasives that are already in Lake George from being transported to other nearby waterways.”

The bicameral proposal would expand the requirement to remove visible vegetation and animal matter and all standing water from boats and trailers when using any boat launching facility in the state. Hilary Smith says research finds that visual inspection is highly effective in preventing the spread of invasives.  “Visual inspection is about as effective as high-pressure boat washing to remove aquatic plants.  So we think that these simple steps before launching and after leaving would be extremely important to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasives.”

Mandatory washing and decontamination would be the ideal option. But the bill offers the best initial step according to Ross Whaley, senior advisor to the Adirondack Landowners’ Association. He adds that many communities simply cannot afford mandatory decontamination.  “If you insisted that there be boat spraying of some kind, or decontamination of some kind, at every water body in the state the costs become overwhelming of either doing it or simply enforcement. So education combined with the incentive of a civil penalty strikes me as a pretty darn good approach.”

Nature Conservancy in New York Director of Government Relations Jessica Ottney-Mahar says there is strong support for the bill and she hopes to see it passed before the session ends.  “Until we start to see a statewide piece enacted, frankly it’s putting the communities that have taken their own initiatives at a disservice.  Because they’re not going to reap the full benefits of what they’ve done locally unless all of the waterways are covered in New York State.”

Of particular concern is the potential spread of the spiny water flea, Asian clam and hydrilla.

In a follow-up e-mail regarding visual inspection, Hilary Smith adds:  ".... there is a difference in effectiveness of visual inspection for aquatic plants and visual inspection for small-bodied organisms. Visual inspection to remove aquatic plants is comparable to high press washing (about 88% effective), but it’s less effective at removing aquatic small-bodied organisms (65% effective) than removing them with high pressure washing (91% effective). That being said, visual inspection to remove aquatic small-bodied organisms is better than taking no action at all."

Related Program