Lake George Boat Inspection Program Finds Invasives on One Boat in 10

August 15, 2014
Brian Nearing

About one boat in every 10 that has launched into Lake George so far this summer has been decontaminated because of suspected invasive species, according to figures from the Lake George Park Commission.

Through early August, about 10,000 boats have launched at six boat inspection and cleaning stations under a program begun this year to keep further invasive species from getting into the lake. Another 3,500 boats were inspected upon leaving the lake.

And so far, 100 confirmed cases of invasives have been found, according to commission figures provided Thursday.

About three-quarters of the boats, some 7,600, were coming to the lake for the first time from another body of water, and of those, 805 had to be cleaned with a high-pressure spray after inspectors found possible invasives. “This percentage is greater than initially expected,” said Lake George Mayor Robert Blais.

Some two years in the making, the program makes Lake George the first lake in the state and the only lake east of the Mississippi with controls over boat launches meant to prevent invasive species from being inadvertently introduced. Lake George has five invasive species and the goal is to keep more from getting in.

Blais heads the S.A.V.E. Lake George Partnership, which represents municipal officials, conservation groups, scientists, and businesses. The organization has committed to paying half the annual cost of the prevention program, estimated at more than $350,000 for each of the next two years.

Of the cleaning stations, the one with the highest rate of suspect boats has been at the Lake George village transfer station, where 307 out of 1,402 boats have been cleaned, or nearly one boat in four.

The results for boats cleaned at other stations:

Moss Point State Park in Ticonderoga, 112 boats (10 percent of all inspections)

Rogers Rock State Park in Hague, 106 boats (9.6 percent)

Dunham's Bay in Queensbury, 132 boats (9 percent)

Norowal Marina in Bolton Landing, 141 boats (6 percent)

Huletts Landing in Dresden, Washington County, 7 boats (less than 1 percent)

Of the 100 confirmed invasive cases, about three-quarters were Eurasian water milfoil, the first of five invasives that have entered the lake since the lake in 1986.

But inspectors also found three boats contaminated by water chestnuts, an invasive not yet known to be in the lake.

Also found were boats carrying already-present invaders such as zebra mussels (15 cases), curly-leaf pondweed (8 cases) and Asian clams (1 case). A single case of an unidentified snail was also listed.

“These figures show that a great number of boats have been entering the lake with invaders,” said Blais. He also said that initial fears voiced by some boaters that inspection stations would be clogged by long lines have failed to materialize. “The program is working very smoothly, and we are seeing a lot of support for it,” he said.

Eric Siy, executive director of the Fund for Lake George, a not-for-profit advocacy group that supports the inspection program, said the results showed the program's value — as well as the need to expand such inspections into other bodies of water in the Adirondacks and across the state.

“The results here show that other bodies of water in the state are at risk from invasives. We hope the state can find a way to expand this program,” Siy said.

One invasive, the Asian clam, has cost localities around Lake George more than $1.5 million in an unsuccessful effort to control it since it was found three years ago.

Clams breed quickly and can foul shallow waters, which could damage tourism potential. Millions of dollars have been spent to combat Eurasian water milfoil.

The inspection and launch rules apply to all 86 public and private launches at the lake.

Operators of launches without inspection stations must check that boaters have proof of inspection, and bar from launching those that don't.

People who launch uninspected boats face a potential fine of up to $500, but no citations have been issued.

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