Thursday, June 9, 2011

Programs Combating Invasives on Boats Expand

Boaters on Adirondack waterways will be a lot more likely to be questioned about whether they are transporting invasive species at local boat launches this year thanks to a boost in funding for two water steward programs. The Watershed Stewardship Program at Paul Smith’s College will nearly quadruple its workforce across the central Adirondacks this year while the Lake George Association is also expanding its coverage at Lake George.

With the help of a grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Paul Smith’s stewards will help protect three major recreational areas: Saratoga Lake; the Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake region; and the Fulton Chain of Lakes in the Old Forge area. The Lake George Association’s Lake Steward Program on Lake George will also significantly expand over last year’s level thanks to new funding provided by the Lake George Park Commission.
Lake and Watershed Stewards returned to boat launches and docks on Memorial Day weekend looking for invasive plants and animals, and educating boaters about their danger. The stewards will remain on duty through Labor Day. The Paul Smith’s program is expanding coverage to seven new lakes or lake chains, while continuing coverage at an additional seven, and expanding from seven stewards to 27. Lake George stewards are posted at two additional boat launches this year, for a total of six (days and hours are also increasing).

Stewards inspect boats, canoes, kayaks and other craft entering and exiting the water for invasive species, remove suspicious specimens, and educate boaters about the threats of invasive species and how to prevent their spread.

Aquatic invasive species are a growing threat in the Adirondacks, making such inspections increasingly important to combating their spread. When invasives take hold in a body of water they can displace native species and rapidly multiply making waterways impassible and hurting tourism and other industries, invasive species experts say.

“In most cases, you can never truly eradicate invasives once you get them—you can just manage them,” said Eric Holmlund, Ph.D., director of the Watershed Stewardship Program. “That’s why we must emphasize preventing the transport of aquatic invasives in the first place.”

Once invasives are introduced, controls are costly, and, at times, not even an option – for instance, no control methods exist for the spiny waterflea, an invasive zooplankton that degrades fisheries.

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.

For 2011 stewards be stationed at Long Lake, Raquette Lake, Fulton Chain of Lakes, Cranberry Lake, Meacham Lake, St. Regis Canoe Area, Lake Flower, Upper St. Regis Lake, Lake Placid, Rainbow Lake, Osgood Pond, Second Pond, Tupper Lake, Lake George, and Saratoga Lake.

The inspections are currently voluntary. More than a half dozen local municipalities have passed or are considering aquatic invasive species transport laws.

Photo: LGA Lake Steward Monika LaPlante inspects a boat in 2010 at the Norowal Marina on Lake George. Courtesy LGA.

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