Summer Invasives Fight Assessed

Amanda May Metzger
September 9, 2014
 

The first year of the pilot program enforcing mandatory boat inspections around Lake George resulted in the decontamination of more than 1,000 boats and prevented what would have been a new invasive species from entering the lake.

In the inaugural year of the mandatory boat inspection program on Lake George, 16,888 boats were inspected and about 7 percent of them — 1,135 — required decontamination according to records from May 15 to Aug. 31.

Aquatic species reportedly found on boats that had to be cleaned included Eurasian watermilfoil, curly leaf pondweed, Asian clams, snails and a species that would have been a new invader to Lake George: Water chestnuts.

It only takes one (boat to spread invasive species), and to think that this was thousands of boats that were inspected, and to think how much was kept out … . I think numbers can speak volumes, and that’s where people seem to respond,” said Jessica Rubin, The Fund for Lake George’s director of development and marketing.

The Lake George Park Commission’s new mandatory boat inspection and decontamination program is a two-year pilot program and the first of its kind east of the Mississippi River.

It’s publicly and privately funded and is part of the Aquatic Invasive Species Spread Prevention Program for Lake George.

It’s going exceptionally well. We have had really no push-back at all against the program. The marinas are working very well with us, and the boat owners are aware of the program, thanks in large part to the media. It’s going very, very well,” said Dave Wick, executive director of the Lake George Park Commission.

The boating season is defined as April 15 to Dec. 1 in the program regulations, so stations will be operational until then, Wick said, though staffing levels can be adjusted as they study launch patterns through data collected at each site.

The program costs about $700,000 and was funded privately and publicly.

The S.A.V.E. Partnership, which includes a variety of municipal and environmental leaders, committed to paying for half of the program while the state pays the other half. The Fund, a founding member of S.A.V.E.,

will pay $50,000 toward the partnership’s match in addition to underwriting the training program.

Last year, the Lake George Association’s lake steward program provided voluntary inspections.

The fight to eradicate existing invasive species in Lake George has cost more than $7 million.

Now, every trailered vessel that goes through six launches on the lake requires inspection and, if necessary, decontamination.

In the first month of the program, May 15 through June 15, 3,051 boats were inspected.

S.A.V.E. 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.

Rubin said S.A.V.E. meets regularly to discuss the program.

They take a look at the numbers for ongoing evaluation. This is a pilot program, so it’s very important to have these numbers compiled and be taking an active look,”

Rubin said. “We’re hoping it can be a model for

elsewhere in the state so these numbers are constantly being looked at, and it’s the first go at it.”

Five aquatic invasive species are known to have invaded Lake George, including the following: two plants, Eurasian watermilfoil and curlyleaf pondweed; two mollusks, zebra mussel and Asian clam; and one crustacean, spiny water flea.

This year, the mandatory inspection program launched May 15 as officials prepared for it, bringing in nationally known trainers for the 50 seasonally employed boat inspection technicians at six key stations around the lake.

With invasive species, the plants usually come up in May, and the animals, such as zebra mussels, don’t usually start spawning until late May. It will depend on weather, but the program may start earlier next year.

Contaminated boats must be treated with water that is at least 140 degrees for the exterior and 120 degrees to treat the interior areas. For decontamination, each boat sits on a yellow mat that collects the used water. A vacuum-like hose sucks up water on the mat and filters it through the decontamination unit, recycling it for the next use.

Some locations have more than one decontamination unit, depending on demand. Every boat inspected is marked with a tamper-proof plastic plunger seal. A strand of thin wire is threaded through the small green seal to fasten the boat hitch to its trailer. Boats may also be inspected when they exit Lake George, although that is not mandatory. Those boats are marked with red seals as ready to re-enter the water.

If the seal is broken, the boat will require another inspection. Through the “frozen boats” initiative, boat owners whose vessels are winterized get a seal to verify their boats were inspected.

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