The Lake George Association (LGA) has released its annual report on the Lake George Lake Steward Program. According to LGA, since 2008 the organization’s lake stewards have inspected almost 25,000 boats at high traffic launches around the Lake, removed over 400 aquatic invasive species samples from boats, and have educated around 60,000 boaters about invasive species spread prevention.
The LGA’s 2012 report summarizes the data collected last year, and includes the number of boats inspected, the total number of animal and plant samples removed, the identity and quantity of invasive species found, and the most recent waterbody boats visited within two weeks prior to launching in Lake George.
The data helps define how invasive species are spread, and the pathways that exist between other regional waterways and Lake George. The program seeks to protect the Lake from the introduction and spread of invasive species that could negatively alter the Lake’s ecosystem, shoreline property values, and the region’s tourism-driven economy.
“Data collected by our Lake Stewards, has been instrumental in moving Lake George forward with aquatic invasive species (AIS) spread prevention efforts,” Walt Lender, executive director of the LGA said in a statement to the press. “We are pleased that we can provide the lake steward program data for the Lake George community that clearly demonstrates the threat to the lake from the spread of AIS on trailered boats. We don’t have to just rely on scholarly articles or findings from other lakes and states. We have five years of data from our own Lake that shows the constant pressure of AIS knocking on our door year after year. We have the data we need; now we need a solid plan that gets serious about AIS spread prevention.”
In 2012, Lake Stewards were posted at five launches around Lake George: Dunham’s Bay, Hague Town Launch, Mossy Point, Norowal Marina, and Rogers Rock. Over the 2012 season;
The Lake George lake stewards inspected 6,972 boats and interacted with 17,954 boaters.
The total number of waterbodies visited within two weeks of overland transport to Lake George was 155 unique waterbodies located in 13 different states throughout the United States and 2 Provinces in Canada.
Other than Lake George itself, the next most frequently visited waterbody in 2012 was Lake Champlain, a waterbody known to have 49 nonnative species. 96 boats inspected by the lake stewards had been in Lake Champlain within two weeks prior to launching in Lake George.
Lake stewards collected 272 aquatic organism samples from 189 boats and trailers, and identified 131 samples to be an invasive species.
Six different invasive species were identified: Eurasian watermilfoil, curly-leaf pondweed, water chestnut, zebra mussels, quagga mussels, and spiny water flea.
While 83 percent of boaters reported having previous interaction with a lake steward, only 63 percent of boaters reported taking at least one spread prevention measure. Spread prevention measures include but are not limited to washing the boat, draining the bilge, and inspecting the boat for plants and animals.
2012 saw the addition of two new aquatic invasive species to the lake steward program report. It was the first year that the lake stewards found both quagga mussels and spiny water fleas. Quagga mussels were removed from two boats on separate occasions about to launch into Lake George. One boat had last been in Cayuga Lake, and the other in Lake Ontario. Both of those lakes are known to have established quagga mussel infestations.
Spiny water flea was confirmed in Lake George in 2012 when an angler brought a sample to the lake steward stationed at Mossy Point. During the late summer, lake stewards found spiny water flea on fishing gear on boats leaving Lake George multiple times.
“The stewards inspect boats leaving the lake as well as boats about the launch,” Kristen Rohne, LGA’s watershed educator and the lake steward program manager, told the press. “While our priority might be protecting Lake George, we also recognize the fact that Lake George has aquatic invasive species that might infect other area waterways, and we try to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species out of the lake as much as we can as well as stop more from coming in.”
Lake George is just one of many Adirondack lakes battling aquatic invasive species. The LGA is an active participant on the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program’s (APIPP) Aquatic Invasive Species Committee. Since NY doesn’t have a coordinated state-wide program like many other states, partners in the Adirondacks have been coordinating amongst themselves for years, to do what they can to protect Adirondack waterways.
The LGA has worked very closely with the Lake Champlain Basin Program and Paul Smiths College Adirondack Watershed Institute over the past few years. Both of these organizations also run steward programs, and all the programs collaborate on data collection, training, publications, handouts, and messaging.
“We all try to share resources and help each other out the best we can. We also collaborate with the other lakes that are close by, such as Schroon Lake and Brant Lake, who are also trying to protect their lakes from AIS with Lake Steward Programs,” said Emily DeBolt, the LGA’s director of education and the Lake Steward program coordinator.
She and Rohne run the Lake George Lake Steward Program together for the LGA. “We are all trying to do the most we can with the resources we have available. We know that spread prevention is more effective than management. Once a new aquatic invasive species gets into a lake, it is extremely costly to manage and eradication is unlikely. Asian clam has recently reminded us all of that here in Lake George. I’d say at this point we literally can’t afford to get another new invasive species in the Lake.”
“We’re very proud of our lake stewards. They do a remarkable job protecting Lake George. It’s a very effective program and it plays a critical role in spread prevention, but the stewards can’t see every invasive species,” said Lender. “We’ll have the stewards back out there to start the 2013 boating season. Additional new funding from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and the Lake George Park Commission (LGPC) will help us expand the program. As long as we can find funding, we will continue to provide the program until the LGPC can establish a mandatory program.”
Both the full report and an abridged ‘key findings’ version will be available for download from the LGA website.