In its first two weeks in force, the mandated invasive species inspection and decontamination program for boats launched on Lake George is working smoothly and is well accepted by the public, lake management officials said recently.
Lake George Park Commission Executive Director Dave Wick told members of the commission’s Aquatic Invasive Species Committee May 30 that boats have been launched on Lake George without substantial delays, boat owners have been cooperative, and night monitoring of public launch sites is now gearing up.
“The response to the inspection and decontamination has been overwhelmingly positive so far— which is great,” Wick said. “People seem to believe fully in the program our employees are hearing very few objections.”
The program started May 15, and the Memorial Day Weekend was the busiest so far this year for boat traffic at public launches, he said. Wick reoprted that in the first 15 days of the program, 1,482 boats had been inspected at six stations around the lake, and 39 boats had not met the standard of being clean, drained and dry and were decontaminated by thorough, high-pressure washing. More than a third of these boats were inspected during Memorial Day weekend.
Lake George Association Executive Director Walt Lender agreed with Wick that the response to the inspection and decontamination program was favorable.
“We’ve heard good feedback from boat owners the program is being widely accepted by the public as a way to effectively protect the lake.” he said.
Lender said that brochures and emails describing the program were being widely distributed, and memorandums of understanding on boat inspection were being signed with all launch owners, homeowners’ associations and marinas on the shores of Lake George. Emails were sent to about 160,000 people courtesy of the Warren County Tourism Department, he said.
Lender added that boat owners and anglers had originally opposed the program, claiming it would restrict lake access — particularly during nighttime hours but the outcome proved otherwise.
Initial fears of hampered access have been alleviated,” he said. “People with clean boats are not being stopped from getting onto the lake.”
Wick noted that a nighttime boat launch monitoring had been implemented in the last week of May. Working during nighttime and early morning hours, the “night stewards” now on duty couldn’t stop a contaminated boat from launching, but they would be warning the boat owner, taking down license numbers, and reporting the violation to the Lake George Park Commission, which has enforcement authority. Two of the stewards work at Rogers Rock in the town of Hague, and two are on duty at Mossy Point launch in the town of Ticonderoga, Wick said.
During the summer, the night stewards will be working seven days per week, from 9 p.m. until 6 a.m. until the regular personnel with enforcement take over, Wick continued. The stewards are paid by The Fund for Lake George, The cost through the summer is expected to be $50,000 total.
Wick also described the status of the ongoing efforts to curb invasive species already living in the lake.
Infestation of the lake by Eurasian Milfoil, a pernicious lakeweed, continues to be an issue in Lake George but harvesting measures are working to keep the invasive species under control, Wick said.
The lake has 203 known milfoil beds, and more than 180 are cleared each year, he added. Twenty-three of the sites host dense beds, and four milfoil beds have been recently identified, Wick said. One is as large as a football field. The two worst infestations are in Lake George Village and the other is in Harris Bay, he said. The sonar images produced by the Jefferson Project is producing extremely detailed computerized three-dimensional maps of the lake bottom that are helpful in identifying the size and extent of milfoil infestation, Wick said.
Asian Clams continue to pose a challenge, Wick said. He noted that while the procedure of laying mats down on top of known clam beds yields a 96 percent kill rate, many of the beds grow back by the following season due to the undetected presence of tiny juvenile clams.
The most extensive known infestations are in Lake George Village, Boon Bay, Log Bay, Norowal Marina and Middleworth Bay. Infestations have been recently identified in Sandy Bay and at Cotton Point, he said.
The Asian clam population’s ability to rebound was dramatically demonstrated last year in English Brook delta, where the lakebottom was essentially free of clams in May 2013, but by August was covered with the tiny invasive mollusks, Wick said.
He noted that the the Darrin Freshwater Institute is now conducting a survey of the lakebottom for clams.
When Wick said it would take $4 million to launch a project to curb the clams, Aquatic Invasive Species Committee member Dean Cook said he supported such aggressive control measures. Wick responded that efforts to abate clams would be most effective after more of the science of clam reproduction in the lake is understood and appropriate control measures are devised. He said such studies are now underway.
“Determining how to break the breeding cycle is the endgame,” he said, noting each clam can breed 1,000 or more juveniles.