In an attempt to smother Asian clams which have invaded Lake George’s Shepard Park Beach, mats have been laid down on the popular swimming venue to smother the sharp-edged creatures. With the mats to be in place through April, events of the Lake George Winter Carnival have been relocated.
Five influential environmental groups are urging New York State to support a mandatory boat inspection and decontamination program for vessels launched on Lake George.
The leaders of these groups sent a letter advocating the program to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens. The letter calls for mandatory boat inspection and decontamination to be in place before the 2013 boating season begins, and urges financial support as well.
The letter notes the proliferation of invasive species, the damage they can cause, and the ecological and economic losses that result. The letter also mentions that early preventative action is far more effective than attempting to control such species once they are introduced into the lake.
To date, the state has balked at supporting an inspection and decontamination program. Some have criticized the initiative because of it would shut down lake access to anglers who seek to launch their boats before dawn or other times the inspection stations were unmanned.
But late last year, Warren County leaders voted to draft a law requiring such an inspection program for all the county’s lakes, and newly elected state Assemblyman Dan Stec has cited that protection of Lake George and the area’s other waterways as one of his top legislative priorities.
Once skeptical of the program, local municipalities now primarily approve of the initiative. Warren County towns bordering the lake have enacted resolutions in support of mandatory inspection and decontamination. Major businesses, too, have voiced support, based on protecting tourism and economic vitality — which historically has been due to Lake George’s reputation as one of the purest lakes in the nation.
Peter Bauer, Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks, noted the widespread support of the inspection program in a prepared statement issued this week.
“It’s critical for the economy and environment of Lake George that this new control program is created,” Bauer said. “It’s time for DEC and the Governor to heed the calls for help from around the lake and stop blocking this important new program.”
A pilot program this past summer demonstrated that a substantial number of boats entering the lake were carrying invasive plants and creatures.
Some members of the Lake George Park Commission, along with its new director Dave Wick, have called for enactment of the control measure. An initial proposal called for boat wash and inspection stations at Norowal Marina in Bolton and one on Lake George Village property near Northway Exit 21 and at the state’s boat launches at Rogers Rock and Mossy Point.
One of the issues concerning state officials has been the cost. It has been estimated that dock and boat registration fees would have to be boosted by about 75 percent to pay for the boat inspection and decontamination mandate, estimated to cost $700,000 annually. Those fee increases would be bolstered by a proposed $40 inspection fee for boats to be launched in Lake George.
Environmentalists note, however that it is far more expensive to attempt to control invasives once they’re introduced rather than prevent their introduction in the first place.
Over the past two years, area municipalities have spent more than $2 million in attempts to control the fast-reproducing Asian clams which foul the waters.
Lake George Town Supervisor Dennis Dickinson has suggested that a special tax district — consisting of lakeside properties — be created to help bankroll the program.
The letter to Cuomo and Martens cites that the Park Commission is seeking to move forward on with the mandatory program in several weeks.
“Aquatic invasive species are one of the major threats facing the ecological health and economy of Lake George and the Adirondack Park,’ the letter reads. “These species can rapidly change the ecology of a lake, wetland, stream or river as well as significantly impair and diminish recreational enjoyment.”
The letter also warns of the probability, in the absence of a boat inspection and decontamination program, of how Lake George is likely to be infected with quagga mussels and hydrilla, two major threats to water-borne recreation and lake health.
Diane Fish of the Adirondack Council voiced such a warning this week, noting that hydrilla now infects the Finger Lakes and quagga mussels have spread throughout the Great Lakes and many other waterbodies in the state.
“Introduction of either of these species to Lake George would be devastating to the lake,” she said. “We need a comprehensive boat management program to protect Lake George, which is one of the busiest lakes in the Adirondacks.”
David Gibson of Adirondack Wild said such a program is essential to lake health because the invasive species are primarily spread by boats launched on one waterway after another. He cited that more than 15,000 boats use Lake George each year and over 5,000 transitory boats annually purchase temporary permits.
“A comprehensive control program would dramatically reduce the risk of further detrimental infestations on Lake George.”