LAKE GEORGE – Boaters headed to Lake George on Thursday were greeted by inspectors on the first day of the Lake George Park Commission’s new mandatory boat inspection and decontamination program, the first of its kind in the eastern U.S.
The publicly and privately funded program is part of the Aquatic Invasive Species Spread Prevention Program for Lake George.
The Lake George Association’s lake steward program had provided voluntary inspections prior to this year. Now, every boat that goes through six launches on the lake requires inspection and, if necessary, decontamination.
“This is an opportunity for people to realize this can be done. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and where there is funding, anything is possible, and we have both,” said Eric Siy, executive director for The Fund for Lake George.
So far, control and eradication efforts, not counting staffing costs, total more than $7 million for the five known invasive species already in Lake George — Eurasian watermilfoil, curlyleaf pondweed, Asian clams, spiny waterflea and zebra mussels.
Siy described invasive species as “biological terrorists” and said the only “prescription is prevention” in keeping them out of the lake.
The cost of the program is $700,000 a year, and it supports 51 inspector jobs for the season.
The S.A.V.E. Lake George Partnership, a broad group including conservation groups, scientists and elected officials, is paying more than $350,000 for each of the next two years — half the cost of the program. The partnership also is funding “night stewards” who will work at the Rogers Rock State Campground and Mossy Point State Boat Launch to inspect and decontaminate boats after inspection hours at those 24-hour launches. Private launches will be gated when not attended, Siy said.
The Fund, a privately funded nonprofit organization, provided a $10,000 grant to the Lake George Park Commission for training, bringing in nationally renowned trainers.
The Fund is a founding member of the S.A.V.E. Lake George Partnership. S.A.V.E. stands for Stop Aquatic inVasives from Entering. The Fund also paid $50,000 toward S.A.V.E’s match in addition to underwriting the training program.
The cost of treating invasives is ever increasing, and it can have a devastating effect on fisheries, tourism revenues and property values by lowering the lake’s water quality.
“Let there be no mistake, there is no middle ground, no compromise on the issue if we are to protect the lake, the lifeblood of our economy,” Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover, a founding S.A.V.E. member, said in a news release.
Lake George Mayor Robert Blais said in the release that “the health of our communities and our economy depend on the health of the lake. Invasives are one of the most critical threats to our lake.”
Officials also said the public-private partnership was historic, with Blais calling it “unprecedented cooperation and commitment from everyone.”
Dave Wick, executive director of the Lake George Park Commission, said it was “fortunate to have such strong support from both Albany leadership and the communities around Lake George.”
The process takes a few minutes, though it will likely increase in time as the season goes on and more boats that have been previously been in the water this year come through.
“The goal is to make this as convenient as possible with strategic coverage around the lake,” Siy said. “It takes a matter of minutes, and you know you’re doing the right thing by getting your boat inspected.”
Thursday afternoon, Ben and Cathy DiSanto arrived at the Dunham’s Bay Marina on Bay Road with their 24-foot Sea Ray in tow. The couple, from Pleasant Valley, a town in Dutchess County, had proof their boat was winterized, and they said Lake George is its first and only destination for the season. The inspection took a few minutes.
“It’s quick, efficient,” Ben said.
Complimenting the inspectors, he said “they were very informative.”
Not being from the area, the DiSantos were unaware of the new mandatory inspections and suggested that signs, perhaps temporary ones, be added along the highway to let travelers know what to expect.
Through the “frozen boats” initiative, boat owners whose vessels were winterized locally received a seal to verify their boats are “clean, drained and dry,” as the inspectors say, and ready to enter the water.