Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Regional Efforts To Combat Invasive Species Advance

APIPP Photo Steward Inspecting KayaksRegional efforts to control the spread of invasive species in the Adirondacks are making advances recently. The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has approved two general permits relating to invasive species. At the same time, Warren County has approved a Framework Agreement for a region-wide aquatic invasive species plan that could mean expanded voluntary boat inspections.

APA General Permits 2015G-1 and 2014G-1A authorize a rapid response to both aquatic and terrestrial invasive species throughout the Adirondack Park by qualified and trained persons. These general permits approve eradication efforts both on a park-wide scale as well as for individual waterbodies or specific locations.

Invasive species are non-native species that can cause harm to the environment, the economy or to human health.  Invasives cause or contribute to habitat degradation, loss of native fish, wildlife and plant species and the loss of recreational opportunities and related tourism income.

The Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program’s “The Actual and Potential Economic Impact of Invasive Species on the Adirondack Park: A Preliminary Assessment” determined that the spread of just eight high risk invasive species, including four aquatic invasive species, could result in an annual  loss of $48 to $53 million to the tourism, agriculture, and forestry sectors in the Adirondack Park.  In addition, the study indicated that long-term losses of $420 to $840 million to lake shore property values were highly possible.

APA General Permit 2014G-1A authorizes the New York State Department of Transportation, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, and the Regional Inlet Invasive Plant Program to conduct management of terrestrial invasive plant species without the need to seek a permit from the APA for each specific project.  In addition, this permit allows the APA Deputy Director for Regulatory Programs to certify new permittees once trained and determined to be qualified.

dec invasive species regsThe Best Management Practices published by the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program at http://www.adkinvasives.com/ or the Inter-Agency Guidelines for Implementing Best Management Practices for the Control of Terrestrial and Aquatic Invasive Species on Forest Preserve Lands in the Adirondack Park will serve as the guidelines for eradication efforts undertaken with the General Permits.

APA General Permit 2015G-1 authorizes the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Lake George Park Commission, Hudson River Black River Regulating District, Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP), qualified lake associations/organizations, local municipalities, certified lake managers, and experienced lake managers approved by the APA to use benthic barriers and hand harvesting techniques to control aquatic invasive species.

As part of the General Permit conditions, each authorized entity will be required to submit annual reports to the APA documenting their activity. APA General Permit 2015G-1 and 2014G-1A and related documents are available on the Agency’s website.

In June the Warren County Board of Supervisors voted unanimous support of a proposed Framework Agreement on establishing an Adirondack Region-Wide Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program in 2016. The action came after a briefing by Fred Monroe, Chester Town Supervisor, Chairman of the County Board of Supervisor’s Legislative Committee, and Executive Director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board.

The Framework Agreement’s stated purpose is to “Establish a region-wide aquatic invasive species prevention program that protects water quality, public enjoyment and economic value to the maximum extent practicable to reduce or stop the introduction of new and the spread of existing aquatic invasive species in Adirondack waters through a comprehensive voluntary boat inspection and decontamination system that applies latest tools and best practices for success.”

The Agreement lays out the following objectives:

o   Create a gateway inspection/decontamination infrastructure around the periphery of the Adirondack Park along all major travel corridors used by trailered boats, especially those transporting boats from high risk regions outside the Park possessing waters with high numbers of invasives, including the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River, Lake Champlain, the Finger Lakes, and the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers,

o   Create an internal network of inspection/decontamination facilities within the Park along high traffic roads, within close proximity to high traffic boat launches, and at key interception points of known invasion spread hubs and linkage lakes (as documented in the previously stated white paper) to stem cross-contamination from one water body to another while also “catching” trailered boats not inspected at a gateway facility,

o   Provide skilled labor jobs across the region for trained inspectors, decontamination technicians, boat launch stewards and educators, both seasonal and year-round, on a sustaining basis,

o   Expand boat launch stewardship capacity and coverage, for all launches that are not covered directly by decontamination infrastructure, to conduct visual inspections of boats upon entry and exit that may be missed by the network of decontamination facilities, remove tags from watercraft that have moved successfully through the decontamination network, and direct boaters to the nearest decontamination facilities when inspections fail. Stewards will also educate boaters on the threats of AIS, the “clean, drained and dry” approach, and promote lake stewardship,

o   Establish a regional system for tagging and registering inspected/decontaminated and frozen boats (applying the LGPC’s successful, volunteer led, frozen boats approach that offers an efficient and verifiable form of “self certification”) that provides for easy identification and data collection, and makes the prevention program more convenient to boaters,

o   Conduct an outreach and education campaign surrounding the program to reach the widest possible number of boaters and encourage them to arrive “clean, drained, and dry” as will be required by law starting in September 2015 and, if they cannot do so, to have their trailered boats inspected/decontaminated before launching,

o   Erect consistent signage in strategic locations at boat launches, along both peripheral and interior roadways, and, at major travel corridors outside the Adirondack Park, and also use billboards in collaboration with appropriate State agencies to inform boaters on both the threat of invasive species and prevention methods, encouraging a “clean, drained and dry” standard for transport and launching of watercraft and to direct boaters toward inspection/decontamination facilities to protect our Adirondack waters,

o   Establish a matching grants program for public and private entities in the region to support purchase of decontamination stations and associated personnel costs and/or staff additional boat launch stewards,

o   Create and promote a dedicated public contributions program that parallels outreach and education activities and provides additional revenues to support program implementation,

o   Raise a budget sufficient to operate 25 to 30 boat decontamination stations and staff regional boat launch stewards including site preparation, training, and annual operating expenses.

New DEC regulations enacted in 2014 require boaters to remove all visible plant and animal materials from boats, trailers and associated equipment, and to drain boats prior to launching at or departing from DEC managed state lands (including fishing access sites and boat launches). DEC also recommends drying boats, but that is not required under the regulations.
Beginning in 2014 all boats entering Loon Lake and Lake George are required to undergo a inspection for the presence of invasive species.

Photos: Above, Adirondack Watershed Institute steward inspecting kayaks. Photo courtesy Adirondack Watershed Institute; and below, plant debris on a boat being hauled (photo by DEC).

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