Cuomo Signs Law Designed to Fight Invasive Species

September 2, 2014
 Casey Seiler
 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation requiring boat owners to use “reasonable precautions” to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. Those measures include cleaning, draining and drying the boat and trailer of visible plant and animal matter after pulling them out of the water.

Under the new law, first offenses would result in a written warning, while subsequent violations could prompt fines starting at $250 and topping out at $1,000. In recent years, Lake George has been a major battleground in the war on invasives. A new mandatory boat inspection system was launched in May at six boat launches around the lake thanks to support from state, federal and local sources. Eric Siy, executive director on the Fund for Lake George, said that program had inspected more than 14,000 boats since coming on line. He said the Fund has spent more than $100,000 this year on prevention and treatment of invasive incursions.

Siy was disappointed that the law won’t go into effect until next year, and sunsets on June 1, 2019.

This is a crisis–that’s not hype, that’s based on our experiences in Lake George,” he said. Siy emphasized that the
legislation needs to be backed up by sufficient inspection and decontamination resources. “We built a fort on Lake George, but we are under siege,” Siy said.

From Cuomo’s release announcing the bill signing:
“The natural beauty that is found in every corner of New York is second to none, and it is imperative that we do
everything possible to protect that from the dangers of invasive species,” Governor Cuomo said. “We all share a
responsibility to protect our natural environment, and this legislation helps ensure that all who enjoy New York’s
waters will also do their part to limit the spread of different types of aquatic life that would otherwise harm the local
ecosystem.”

The legislation signed by Governor Cuomo makes it the responsibility of boaters launching watercraft to use
common sense when putting in and taking out their boats. Before transportation or launch, the boater should first
clean, drain and dry the boat, trailer, and any other exposed equipment of visible plant and animal matter, or have
taken other reasonable measures to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. This will help prevent the
spread between waterbodies and introduction of invasive species in new waterbodies throughout New York.
Invasive species are a threat because they have few natural predators in their new environment and can carry
harmful diseases. Ultimately, invasives can outcompete native plants and animals and change entire ecosystems.
Aquatic invasive species are one of the greatest threats to the State’s treasured waterways because once introduced,
they are nearly impossible to eradicate and expensive to manage.

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, aquatic invasive species seriously
threaten economically important industries, such as tourism and fishing. Invasive species cost the U.S. economy an
estimated $120 billion per year, and while the State has implemented various programs designed to control the
spread of aquatic invasives, it is far more cost-effective to prevent them altogether.

Senator Tom O’Mara said, “Individual boaters are the front line of defense against the spread of invasive species,
and this new initiative offers a straightforward approach asking all boaters to do our part to help protect waterways,
regional tourism economies and local jobs. Taking every possible step to stop the spread of destructive invasive
species before they take hold is the most cost-effective and common-sense approach to combat this severe threat
to the environment and economy of the Finger Lakes and other waterways statewide.”

Assemblymember Barbara Lifton said, “I am very pleased and appreciate the governor signing into law this
important piece of legislation. This is a promising new day in our battle against aquatic invasive species that
threaten our high-quality water resources and the recreational and economic benefits they provide,” Stuart F. Gruskin, Chief Conservation and External Affairs Officer for The Nature Conservancy in New York, said,

The Nature Conservancy commends Governor Cuomo for signing this important legislation, which will reduce the
spread of aquatic invasive species that harm human, economic and environmental health. Each year, invasive species cost our communities millions of dollars. By taking simple and common sense measures to clean, drain and dry our boats we can reduce the spread of these harmful species and protect our fishing, tourism and other water-dependent industries. We appreciate Governor Cuomo’s commitment to prevent the spread of invasive species and applaud the bill sponsors Senator Thomas O’Mara and Assemblymember Barbara Lifton for their leadership on this issue in the Legislature.”

Governor Cuomo’s signing of the bill today complements a broad approach by State agencies to combat the
spread of invasive species in New York’s waters. The Department of Environmental Conversation this summer
adopted regulations similar to this bill that prohibits boats from launching or leaving water access sites on
Department of Environmental Conversation land without first taking these precautions. The Office of Parks,
Recreation and Historic Preservation this summer published proposed regulations that would place similar
requirements on watercraft using State Parks. Several local municipalities and organizations in the State have
already adopted local laws to address the spread of aquatic invasive species, including boat inspection and washing
requirements. In 2014, the State adopted the first ever mandatory invasive species inspection programs at all boat
launches on Lake George.

New York State has invested millions of dollars in response, mitigation and prevention programs to rid the
environment of invasive species on water and land. In July, Governor Cuomo announced the State’s first-ever
Invasive Species Awareness Week to teach New Yorkers and visitors about the threat that these pests pose to our
environment. More information about the State’s efforts to control and rid the environment of invasive species can be
found here.

Update: The League of Conservation Voters and the Adirondack Council praised the signing:
The Adirondack Park’s largest environmental organization and the New York League of Conservation Voters today
applauded Governor Andrew Cuomo for signing legislation to help the Adirondacks and its communities prevent the
spread of aquatic invasive species.

The Aquatic Invasive Species Act requires boaters to clean, drain and dry watercraft and gear when entering and
leaving any public boat launch. The spread of invasive species threatens clean water, aquatic ecosystems, and the
tourism-based economy of the Adirondacks.

The bill was sponsored by Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, D-Ithaca, and Sen. Thomas O’Mara, R-Big Flats. It was
granted final legislative approval in June.

The Adirondack Council supported this legislation,” said Adirondack Council Legislative Director Kevin Chlad.
“With New York State being at the epicenter of invasive species infestations, it is crucial that we prevent the spread of
aquatic invasive species by requiring the decontamination of boats before launch. The commitment to pass this bill
was impressive. The Assembly and Senate sponsors worked with a diverse group of supporters to get this bill
passed.”

New York needs all hands on deck to help fight invasive species in our state. This simple and commonsense law
will help slow the spread of invasive species in the Great Lakes, the Finger Lakes, Lake George, Lake Champlain
and other beloved waterways across our state – without placing an unfair burden on boaters,” said Dan Hendrick,
Vice President for External Affairs for the New York League of Conservation Voters. “We applaud Governor Cuomo
and our state lawmakers for taking action, and we look forward to working with our state leaders to making even
more progress on this critical issue in the future.”

However, regulation alone can’t do the job, Chlad explained. Local communities are already spending millions of
dollars each year fighting the spread of invasive species.

Next, what is needed most is a transformational increase in the state’s dedicated funding for invasive species
research, education, prevention, eradication and management,” Chlad said. “Boat inspections, invasive species
detection and decontamination cost money. It is money that would be well-spent, but we need to spend it soon to
protect our lakes and rivers.”

Chlad noted that the Adirondack Council doesn’t accept public grants or taxpayer funded donations of any kind.
“This is money that would go to municipal governments and local lake stewards, not environmental organizations,”
Chlad said. “It would help to lift some of the burden off of local property taxpayers. Protecting lakes and rivers is the
state’s responsibility. The state should provide the funding needed to get the job done.”

Chlad said that invasive species funding would be a high priority for Adirondack Council in the 2015 Legislative
Session.

The Adirondack Council is an independent, privately funded, not-for-profit organization, founded in 1975. The
Council’s mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park. The Council
envisions an Adirondack Park comprised of large, core Wilderness areas, surrounded by working forests and farms
and vibrant local communities. The Adirondack Council carries out its mission through research, education,
advocacy and legal action. Council members live in all 50 United States.

 

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