“In a state through which invasives migrate, you need a state-wide platform,” says Bolton’s Ron Conover, the chairman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors. Conover is among the first, if not the very first, leader of a New York county to call for a state-wide system of boat inspection and decontamination stations to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. “Given that New York State is the nation’s main point of entry and spread of invasives from all over the world, we should have the strongest program in the country. We do not,” the Supervisor said, responding to the news that Hydrilla, frequently referred to as “Eurasian watermilfoil on steroids,” was discovered in vessels just as they were about to be launched into Upper Saranac Lake. As many of our readers know, those vessels had already been inspected by the Lake George Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program. Green tags were affixed to the boat trailer, indicating that the watercraft and trailer had passed inspection. Had the owner not visited a second inspection station, the weed might have been introduced to an Adirondack waterbody. Assuming for the moment that Hydrilla had established itself, it would have spread quickly, forming dense, floating mats that make the water unfit for recreation.
The Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) estimates that if Hydrilla were allowed to become established and spread throughout the Adirondacks, it could result in losses of $6.65-$9.5 million annually in direct visitor spending. The boat launch inspection station where the Hydrilla was intercepted is one of 60 constituting the NYSDEC-funded Adirondack AIS Prevention Program. It proved to be a second line of defense, demonstrating the need for multiple lines of defense if we are to have any chance of stopping aquatic invasive species from infecting our lakes and ponds. That’s why the leaders of the S.A.V.E. Lake George Partnership, the group representing local governments and lake protection organizations that helps fund the Lake George Prevention Program, support Conover’s call for a state-wide system of inspection and decontamination stations. “We can learn a lot from western states that have implemented effective programs at their borders to protect their recreation-based economies and irreplaceable natural heritage from invasive species. Because New York serves as a gateway for invasives nationwide, decisive leadership here will protect the state and the entire country,” said Eric Siy, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George. The group says that it will make some recommendations about how New York State can strengthen its defenses against invasives when it meets with state legislators and officials. It will no doubt make a forceful argument for a state-wide program. A more urgent and achievable goal, however, might be to make the Adirondack AIS Prevention Program a mandatory rather than a voluntary one. The chances of intercepting invasives before they’re introduced to local waters are no doubt much greater if boaters are required rather than asked to stop at the inspection stations.