The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Lake George Park Commission (LGPC) have announced they will take actions to prevent the spread and threat of aquatic invasive species in preparation for the summer 2013 Lake George boating season. In addition, an environmental review of a long-term plan to address invasive species is expected to begin shortly.
The announcement is the latest state and local action designed to reduce the spread of invasive species, particularly aquatic invasives. In 2011 Warren County passed a law making the introduction and transport of aquatic invasive species into Warren County waterbodies illegal. The state’s first county law of its kind imposes a fine of up to $5,000 and up to 15 days in jail for violators. In July 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Invasive Species Prevention Act into law, directing DEC and the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets to develop by September 2013 a proposed list of invasive species to be regulated and prohibited.
At least 80 waters in the Adirondack Park have one or more aquatic invasive species, but more than 220 waters recently surveyed remain free of invasives. Currently, the interior of the Adirondack region remains relatively free of invasives but under increasing threat of their spread from surrounding areas. In 2012, the Hudson River Feeder Canal and the Champlain Canal above Lock 11 were reported to be infested with spiny water flea plankton. Spiny water flea is a particular concern for anglers as it can foul down-riggers and other fishing gear.
Annual surveys conducted at boat launches by Lake George Association stewards highlight the threat of the spread of invasives into Lake George. In 2011, lake stewards collected 171 aquatic organism samples from 125 boats and trailers, and identified 87 samples to be invasive species including Eurasian watermilfoil, curly-leaf pondweed, water chestnut and zebra mussels. Within two weeks of their launch in Lake George, boaters had visited 193 unique waterbodies located in 15 different states. According to Lake George Mirror editor Anthony Hall about $3.6 million dollars has been spent to control the spread of Eurasian milfoil was discovered in Lake George in 1985.
According to a statement issued to the press, DEC and LGPC will:
1. Expand the Lake George Association’s boat steward program from May to September. The season previously ran from June to August. This will provide additional protection during months when boat traffic is relatively high but stewards are not currently funded.
2. Develop and implement a more comprehensive outreach program to local and regional boaters who boat on Lake George on how they can reduce the risk of spreading and introducing invasive species.
3. Increase patrols by DEC Environmental Conservation Officers and LGPC officers trained in aquatic invasive species spread prevention. These officers will work the launches on a regular required basis.
The state Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) will provide $50,000 from the 2012-13 invasive species prevention allocation to fund the lengthened boat steward program and additional outreach efforts. LGPC will also receive an additional $200,000 from the EPF (from 2012-13) for prevention of the spread of invasives and their containment. Earlier this year the state provided LGPC with $100,000 from the Aid to Localities fund and $100,000 from the EPF to help combat invasive species.
LGPC, in cooperation with the involved state and local agencies, is expected to continue work on a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) for a long-term plan for protecting Lake George from invasive species. LGPC’s Environmental Impact Statement will be subject to public review and comment. The SEQR process must be completed before mandatory inspections and boat washing could be implemented. It is anticipated the SEQR process will be completed by the end of the year, the agencies told the press.
In addition to the Invasive Species Prevention Act (ISPA) signed in July, the Adirondack Park Agency has streamlined its review process for the removal of invasive species in lakes across the Park with a general permit for hand harvesting and benthic mats, the method currently being used by LGPC to control Asian clams on Lake George.
A ban on the transportation of firewood more than 50 miles remains in effect in New York State as an attempt to limit the spread of invasives carried by that means including Emerald Ash Borer, which has all but surrounded the region.
Other threats that have come to the fore recently include an large infestation of variable-leaf watermilfoil (Myriophyllum heterophyllum) in the South Bay of Lake Champlain, and wild boar (Sus scrofa) in Clinton County. Didymo, also known as “rocksnot” is now in five rivers in New York, including Kayaderosseras Creek with headwaters that lie in the southern Adirondacks, making it a step away from invading renowned trout streams such as the Ausable River.
You can read all of the Almanack‘s coverage of invasive species here.