Saturday, January 8, 2011

Lake George Stewards Program Receives Some Funding

The Lake George Association (LGA) has been awarded a $25,000 grant from the Lake Champlain Basin Program for the 2011 Lake Steward program on Lake George. In previous years the LGA had received funds from New York State through the Lake George Watershed Coalition to run the aquatic invasives prevention program, but state budget cutbacks have made future funding unpredictable.

The Lake Steward Program provides invasive species education and spread prevention. Lake Stewards are trained and hired in early summer, then stationed at multiple boat launches around Lake George to educate boaters about the threats of aquatic invasive species, such as Eurasian watermilfoil, zebra mussels, curly-leaf pondweed, and most recently, the Asian clam.
In addition, stewards hope to stop the introduction and transport of invasive species via boats and trailers by conducting visual inspections and removing and identifying any plant or animal material found. Stewards also keep data on the body of water most recently visited prior to the Lake George launch, and whether spread prevention steps were taken prior to launch. Stewards can also inspect bait buckets and educate boaters about New York State’s new baitfish and firewood regulations.

“We are relieved to receive early partial funding for this essential program, as emergency funding was required to run the program in 2010,” said Walt Lender, LGA executive director. “Without preventative measures like the Lake Steward program, Lake George could suffer the kind of devastating impact, both ecologically and economically, that we’ve seen in other lakes.”

The Lake Steward program is credited with helping keep invasive water chestnut from spreading to Lake George. Lake stewards found water chestnut on four boats about to enter Lake George in 2008, on seven boats in 2009, and on five boats in 2010. The program is also credited with preventing the spread of alewives within and beyond the Lake Champlain Basin. In 2009, lake stewards inspected close to 4,000 boats entering or leaving Lake George from May through August. Despite a scaled-back program in 2010, stewards inspected 2,538 boats and removed 56 invasive specimens according to LGA.

Nearby, Lake Champlain has documented 49 invasive species, the St. Lawrence River has 87, the Hudson River has 91, and the Great Lakes have 183. These bodies of water surround Lake George on all sides, and boats, along with their unintended invasives cargoes, are easily transported from one of these lakes to the next.

In the March 2010 issue of Fisheries, a journal of the American Fisheries Society, a report stated that more than two-thirds of boaters do not always clean their boats. This same report concluded that boat launch programs are both needed and effective in slowing the spread of invasive species.

Locally, two other organizations run lake steward programs: the Adirondack Watershed Institute serves a number of Adirondack lakes, and the Lake Champlain Basin Program posts stewards on Lake Champlain.

The LGA coordinates its program with these two other groups, training stewards together, collecting similar data, and most recently creating a shared boater handout for use by all three programs.

There are also programs in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Many of these programs are organized at the state level. In the absence of a statewide program in New York, organizations like the LGA are the main front line defense against invasive aquatics.

Photos: LGA Lake Steward Monika LaPlante inspects a boat in 2010 at the Norowal Marina; Below, LGA Lake Steward Lee Peters educates a boater in 2010 before entering Lake George at the Roger’s Rock Campground launch. Courtesy LGA.

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