The Warren County Board of Supervisors has voted almost unanimously to pass an invasive species transport law following a public hearing. The law, which took effect immediately, makes the introduction and transport of aquatic invasive species into Warren County waterbodies illegal.
It is the first county law of its kind to pass in New York State. The law imposes a fine of up to $5,000 and up to 15 days in jail for violators. Chestertown Supervisor and Executive Director of the Local Government Review Board Fred Monroe was the only supervisor to oppose the measure saying the penalties were too harsh.
“The LGA has been working for weeks with the supervisors to help draft this law, which is based on a law that is still pending at the state level,” Lake George Association Executive Director Walt Lender said in a prepared statement. “This groundbreaking law will help us tremendously in our efforts to fight invasive species on the lake. The LGA plans to be instrumental in teaching people about the law, and in helping area business owners explain the law to visitors next summer,” he said.
While municipalities and environmental groups across the nation have spent millions trying to combat invasive species, many of these same species, including the Asian clam, continue to be sold and transported legally. The law is the first county law of its kind in New York State. Several towns have passed similar laws, including Lake Pleasant and the village of Lake Placid, according to Emily DeBolt, LGA Director of Education.
The LGA has led efforts to enact a similar statewide law. Walt Lender recently testified at a state assembly hearing on how aquatic and terrestrial invasive species are introduced in New York State, methods to combat the species already present, and the effectiveness of state funding, including Environmental Protection Fund monies.
Lender also described the effort and expense of the Asian clam eradication project in Lake George, which topped $500,000 in a single year. He said that $3 million has been spent since 1995 to manage Eurasian watermilfoil in Lake George, including $50,000 annually on the LGA’s Lake Steward program
The hearing was sponsored by NYS Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, chair of the Assembly Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation. Lender was invited to testify by Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward. Sweeney said he hopes to have the invasive species legislation introduced in January. Sweeny’s bill does not currently include penalties for offenders.
The New York State Invasive Species Council was created in 2008 to coordinate among multiple state entities and partners in addressing the environmental and economic threats of invasive species. The council prepared a report to the legislature and the governor to recommend lists of prohibited, regulated, unregulated species plus a procedure for the review of unlisted non-native species. “Two pieces of this suggested legislation have stalled,” DeBolt said. “We are hopeful that this hearing will help get things moving forward.”
For decades, the LGA has been educating people about the invasive species threats to Lake George. Each year since the program started in 2008 LGA Lake Stewards have inspected boats at area launches, removed invasives, and educated boaters. Since then, over 16,000 boats have been inspected and 270 specimens of invasive species have been removed according to DeBolt.
Lake George is surrounded by water bodies that contain invasive species, including the Great Lakes (184 invasive species), the St. Lawrence River (87), Lake Champlain (49), and the Hudson River (91). Lake George is believed to have just four: Asian clam, Eurasian watermilfoil, Zebra mussel, and curly-leaf pondweed.
John Matthews, the owner of Castaway Marina on Lake George, and Alexander Gabriels, manager of Norowal Marina in Bolton, questioned what liability local marinas would have. “We get a lot of out-of-state people who aren’t aware of the laws and are belligerent,” he said according to a report by Glens Falls Post-Star reporter Don Lehman (who has himself questioned whether invasives are a real threat).
County Administrator Paul Dusek, who also serves as Warren County’s Attorney, said marinas wouldn’t have any liability.
Photo: LGA Lake Steward Monika LaPlante inspects a boat in 2010 at the Norowal Marina on Lake George. Courtesy LGA.