Boat counters on the Northway for the Memorial Day weekend say that 89% of the trailered motorboats traveling north into the Adirondacks on Interstate 87 passed the inspection/decontamination station without stopping, according to the Adirondack Council.
It is illegal to transport invasive plants, fish or wildlife from one water body to another in New York. The surest way to avoid contaminating one lake, pond or river with species from another is to have the boat inspected and cleaned by trained personnel. New York has installed a network of inspection stations in and around the Adirondack Park.
Boat inspections and decontaminations are free, but the state hasn’t required boaters to stop at the inspection stations. The Adirondack Council and others want better protection.
Aggressive, non-native plants and aquatic wildlife can overwhelm local plants and wildlife, changing entire ecosystems. Removing them is usually impossible. Controlling their spread has cost state and Adirondack local governments tens of millions of dollars each year.
“The Northway inspection station is one of the easiest and most visible boat-cleaning facilities in the state,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. “The entire process takes about five minutes and the rest area offers great local food as part of an interesting Adirondack visitors’ center.
“Yet fewer than 11% of all boat transporters stopped at the rest area, and only 9% approached the inspection station,” he explained. “At least two percent of boaters used another part of the rest area and avoided the inspection station when they left. Even some who parked near the inspection station then went around it as they left.”
Janeway said it is time for the state to institute a comprehensive motorboat inspection program, requiring boaters who want to launch in the Adirondack Park to get their boats inspected first, and if needed, have them cleaned of invasive species. So far, only Lake George and Loon Lake (Chestertown) require all boats to be inspected prior to launch.
Officials at the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program say 25 new invasive species infestations have been recorded in the park in the past five years, as the voluntary inspection program has slowly expanded.
“Even if we assume that some of the boats passing the Northway station are going to get inspected in Lake George, there are thousands of other boating choices in the park,” Janeway said. “The good news is that the state has funded an already-impressive network of inspection stations around the park and its entry highways. The bad news is the stations won’t do the job if almost nobody stops at them.”
A state-appointed Wilderness Overuse Working Group is developing recommendations for improved management that better protects visitors, the wilderness, and local communities.
The Adirondack Park is the largest park in the contiguous United States and contains thousands of lakes, ponds and rivers with launches that can accommodate trailered motorboats. It would expensive to place enforcement personnel at each launch, but many already have lake stewards who undertake voluntary inspections and cleanings.
Under a comprehensive program, roadside inspections would conclude with a wire seal being placed between the boat and trailer. The seals would allow rangers, other state officials and owners of private launches to conduct spot-inspections to encourage compliance. Inspections conducted on-site prior to launch wouldn’t require a seal, but boaters headed to other lakes could get one as they are leaving.
The original state law banning transport of invasive species was designed to expire after five years, so it could be dropped if it was impractical or onerous. It has been neither, Janeway said.
He noted that the NYS Legislature this spring approved a one-year extension of the law. The Adirondack Council and others support are urging the Legislature to amend the law to require pre-launch inspections, and to make the requirement permanent.