As a new law requiring boaters certify they have cleaned their boat and that it does not contain any visible plant or animal material before launching in the park goes into effect, though, staffing remains a key challenge to both the stewards and the environmental conservation officers tasked with enforcing the new law.
We will be working on an update in the coming weeks and want to hear from anyone who has seen the scene at boat launches this summer: Are people complying with rules or resisting the message of stewards working to limit the spread of invasive species?
PAUL SMITHS – A New York State Department of Environmental Conservation law was recently enacted that requires boaters operating any kind of motorized watercraft in the Adirondack Park and within ten miles of the Park’s boundary to obtain and possess a certification that confirms their motorboat is free of harmful aquatic invasive species.
The new measure to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species went into effect in June 2022 and is meant to complement the existing Adirondack Aquatic Invasive Species Spread Prevention Program operated by the Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute.
The public can learn more about this regulation via a new informational video and fact sheet, and can find locations around the region to get a courtesy inspection and a free boat wash at adkwatershed.org/clean-drain-dry.
The mission of the Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute is to protect clean water, conserve habitat and support the health and well-being of the people in the Adirondacks through science, collaboration, and real-world experiences for students.
Photo at top: The easiest way for the public to ensure their boat meets the “Clean, Drain, Dry, Certify” standard is to visit a Watercraft Inspection Steward at a boat decontamination station. There are several located across the Adirondack region and a boat wash is free. Photo credit: Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute. Photo provided by Zoë Smith, Deputy Director of the Adirondack Watershed Institute.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today reminded everyone to clean, drain, and dry boats and trailers, and disinfect fishing gear before recreating in New York’s waters to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS). Starting Friday, May 27, watercraft inspection stewards, AKA boat stewards, will be stationed at more than 225 boat launches throughout the state to educate and assist the public in cleaning their equipment. Identified by their blue vests, boat stewards can provide a refresher on how to inspect boats and gear and offer information about AIS in New York.
“New York’s abundant lakes, ponds, and streams are vital to the state’s ecology and economy, which is why DEC and our partners are helping protect against the impacts of aquatic invasive species,” said Commissioner Seggos. “Recreating responsibly in New York waters is a critical component for preventing the spread of invasive pests and our dedicated boat stewards will be working hard to protect New York’s waters for the benefit and enjoyment of all. I’m asking New Yorkers to follow their useful instructions to help prevent aquatic invaders.”
New York State’s Watercraft Inspection Steward Programs have begun recruiting stewards for the 2022 boating season. If you like working outdoors, interacting with the public, and want to help protect New York’s waters from aquatic invasive species, be sure to check out the SLELO PRISM website for a listing of positions across New York State.
Sometimes in the environmental protection field there’s a celebration of achievements before they’re fully realized. Case in point: We recently reported that a state road salt task force that was celebrated as a potential win for Adirondack water quality was not actually a done deal, as the governor has yet to appoint its members.
Environmental groups are hopeful that incoming Gov. Kathy Hochul will finish the job. The Adirondack Council’s Willie Janeway said this about it in a news release: “Many of the state’s functions inside the Adirondack Park have ground to a halt as the executive branch of government succumbed to administrative paralysis while the current Governor attempted to defend his actions. As Kathy Hochul becomes governor, the entire state will have an opportunity to heal and make progress again.”
It’s important work, as is the road salt study, septic and sewage management and proposed new surveys of park lakes’ changing ecology. We’ll see how the new governor approaches these problems.
Editor’s note: This “It’s Debatable” column is running in the July/August 2021 issue of Adirondack Explorer magazine. Click here to subscribe. This issue’s debaters don’t fit neatly into the Explorer’s usual yes/no format, as both support inspections of some kind. We’ve attempted to frame the question in a way to reflect their nuanced views.
The question: Should New York enforce boat inspections?
The state legislative session is over. What a weird, hybrid year of remote meetings and some in-person, masked meetings. The Capitol remained closed to the public, but more lobbyists held press conferences outside these last few months. Some of my colleagues continued to work out of the Legislative Correspondents Association offices in the Capitol while others, such as myself, worked from home. Everyone adapts.
Now that the whirlwind is over, though, we can reflect on what was done and what wasn’t. In the last flurry of bills this week, lawmakers made an aquatic invasive species inspection law permanent for the Adirondack Park. The bill also gave more authority to the state Department of Environmental Conservation do require these inspections and boat washes. The bill received unanimous support in both houses–a perhaps rare example of an Adirondacks issue that rallied bipartisan support, environmental groups’ support and local governments’ support. Now the governor has to sign off and make it official.
“The old law in question requires boaters recreating in the Adirondack Park to take reasonable precautions against spreading aquatic invasive species like Eurasian watermilfoil and zebra mussels. Boats should be cleaned, drained and dried to prevent spreading any unwanted hitchhikers. The Adirondack Park is home to more than 3,000 lakes, 8,000 ponds and 1,500 miles of rivers. With more than 12 million visitors each year, the threat of a new invasive species introduction is always looming.”
What are your thoughts about best ways to keep our waterways safe from invasives? Should the state require — and enforce — boat inspections? Or is the current system working well enough?
Photo provided, Connor Vara/Adirondack Watershed Institute. AWI stewards recently finished a 2-week training at Paul Smith’s College to learn techniques for implementing Clean, Drain and Dry at area boat launches.
Stewards are ready for another busy Adirondack boating season
Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute (AWI) is offering free boat inspections and decontaminations starting on Memorial Day weekend at more than 60 boat launches and road-side locations across the Adirondack region to help the public stop the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS).
Pilot Program to Run April 15 to Dec. 15 The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will begin closing the gates at the Mossy Point and Rogers Rock boat launches on Lake George on April 15, as part of an ongoing pilot program to increase protections from aquatic invasive species, DEC Regional Director Joseph Zalewski announced today. The overnight closure will continue through Dec. 15.
“Lake George is one of the most beautiful and heavily recreated lakes in the Northeast. We believe the Commission’s mandatory boat inspection program provides a great balance in protecting Lake George from invasive species without impacting boating activities on the lake,” said Dave Wick, Executive Director of the Lake George Park Commission. “The state and local partnership that created this invasive species prevention initiative has been tremendously successful over its seven years of existence, and it continues to have strong public support.”
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.
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