As the summer boating and tourism season begins, advocates for local lakes and rivers are calling on state lawmakers to make a major new commitment to fighting the spread of invasive species that are already impacting the lakes, rivers and forests of the Adirondack Park and beyond.
Proposed legislation (A. 7273/S. 9619) aims to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) by requiring the removal of visible vegetation and animals from boats as well as removing all areas of standing water in the engine, hulls, and live wells, when using any public or private boat launching facility in New York. This legislation prohibits the launching of boats that have any visible plant and animal matter on any surface of the boat or trailer or contains any standing water. Boats should be clean, drained and dry.
Laws that prohibit the transport of AIS are common throughout the U.S. where states such as Minnesota, Vermont, New Hampshire, Washington, Idaho, Montana, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Massachusetts, and South Carolina, among others, have similar laws. The new legislation will also give the Department of Environmental Conservation authority to draft AIS control regulations for boat transport. Currently, Lake George and Loon Lake, in Warren County, are the only two Adirondack lakes where boaters are required to submit to a pre-launch inspection.
“New York State lags significantly behind many other states in the U.S. for control and management of aquatic invasive species (AIS),” Roger Downs, Conservation Director Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, said in a statement o the press. “Over the last few years, New York has lost ground in the campaign to stop the spread of AIS, hurting the State’s economy and ecosystems alike. This legislation will significantly reverse that trend and reduce the spread of aquatic invasive species around New York.”
Comprehensive statewide action is considered vital because major lakes in the Adirondack Park and other areas of Upstate New York remain un-infested with AIS. Unlike most of the rest of New York, most of the major lakes and ponds in the Adirondacks remain free of AIS, but the numbers of infested lakes continues to grow.
“The time for action is now” said Peter Bauer, Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks argues.”Upstate New York is often cited as an economically depressed area. Yet Upstate is an area rich in incredible lakes, ponds and rivers. The water quality of Upstate New York is vital to the local economies and supports a number of businesses, resorts, vacation homes, and high property values. AIS can rapidly change the ecology of a lake and seriously diminish recreational enjoyment. A much greater investment is needed by New York State to prevent the spread of AIS in order to protect the Upstate economy, environment and quality of life.”
In 2012, there were 460,000 motorboats registered in New York and tens of thousands of boats are transported all around the state each year. Motorboats are the main vectors of AIS spread. As more lakes become infested the costs of AIS control continue to rise, often beyond the means on lake associations, local governments and the limited funding from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). Prevention and interdiction are considered less expensive and more effective at limiting the spread of AIS than the current control and infestation management efforts now underway across New York.
The recent costs of unsuccessful control efforts on Lake George for the Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea) and for hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) on Cayuga Lake show the costs of control efforts running into the millions of dollars. Private organizations lack the authority and the funds to successfully defend against AIS infestations, advocates say. They are hoping to secure a $10-million annual funding commitment from the Legislature, to support local partnership invasive species education, prevention, rapid response and removal. The fund would match local and private funds; the state currently appropriates about $5 million for combating invasive species annually.
A new state regulation now requires all boats launched from state-run sites be clean and drained first. Private launches and those operated by local governments and other state agencies are excluded from those new rules.
“We need to expand the number of locations where boaters are required to clean, drain and dry their watercraft and gear before moving from one lake or river to another,” Adirondack Council Executive Director Willie Janeway said. “We have more than 2,800 lakes and ponds in the park. Most lakes with public launches are open to power boating, including all of the park’s largest lakes. There are only about 40 paid lake stewards, plus some volunteers, to remind people to avoid spreading invasives.”
The 2014 NYS Legislative session ends on June 19th. Advocates of the legislation say a major push is being made to pass the bill with legislative leaders, organizations, and lake associations from around the state.