Boat Inspectors Train to Keep Invasive Species out of Lake George

By: Thom Randall
Date: May 7, 2014

Dave Wick, executive director of the Lake George Park Commission looked around at several groups of his agency’s new employees, clustered around watercraft parked in the Lake George Forum parking lot.

While several of them blasted hulls of boats with high-pressure streams of hot water, instructors offered them tips on technique of decontaminating boats to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

“This is tremendous,” he said. “This is the first program of its kind in the eastern U.S.”

On April 30, about 50 new boat inspection technicians underwent training in preparation for the new mandatory boat inspection and decontamination program that begins May 15.

The new park commission employees learned the fine points of thorough inspection and decontamination of watercraft — both inboards and outboards. The new park commission employees learned how to clean out hulls, bilges, engines, bait wells and ballast tanks. They learned how to identify various invasive species, as well as determine whether a boat was truly cleaned, drained and dry — and could bypass decontamination.

For the training session and related classroom work last week, The Fund for Lake George brought in D. Davis and her husband Michael, nationally-renowned instructors in watercraft decontamination who has trained people at Lake Tahoe and various western states on how to curb the spread of invasive species.

D. Davis stepped back from a group she was training.

“I love how here in Lake George you have buy-ins from the area communities,” she said. “Any successful program is a group effort — In other sites where we’ve trained, this hasn’t always been the case.”

Wick explained that the program to curb invasives already has a head start, with thousands of boats already certified clean through the “frozen boats” program, as well as agreements with boat haulers and private marinas to assure no live invasive plants or animals are introduced into the lake. He estimated that as many as 4,000 boats were already certified clean of invasives, and ready to go into the lake.

We’re working to keep this minimally inconvenient to boaters,” he said.

Wick said the inspectors-in-training had diverse backgrounds — they ranged from dock employees to watercraft rookies.

“Many are people who’ve lived on lakes their whole lives and have extensive mechanical knowledge of boats, and others who are just learning,” he said.

One of the boat enthusiasts with extensive knowledge undergoing training was Leigh Dunning of Mineville. For 50 years, he’s camped on the islands of Lake George. An avid angler, he said he was excited to be hired as an inspector, assuring that boats were clean before they were launched.

“I feel terrific about my new job,” Dunning said soon after he turned over a pressure-washer wand to another trainee. “I’ve spent a lot of time on this lake, and I feel its time to give back.”

Fellow trainee Travis Plansker of Johnsburg offered a similar thought.

“It’s good to know we are helping protect the lake,” he said.

Eric Siy of The Fund for Lake George watched the boat watching instruction.

“This is a historic moment,” Siy said, “We’ve pulled out all the stops at all levels to bring this to reality and fulfill the promise of protection of Lake George from invasive species. We will not have a second chance to protect Lake George from the threat and scourge of invasives — they are biological terrorists.”

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