Boating on Lake George could be more complicated and more expensive next summer. The Lake George Park Commission is considering regulations to fight the spread of invasive species in the lake — regulations that could include mandatory decontamination of boats prior to launching, designated hours at public launches and new fees.
Boating on Lake George could be more complicated and more expensive next summer.
The Lake George Park Commission is considering regulations to fight the spread of invasive species in the lake — regulations that could include mandatory decontamination of boats prior to launching, designated hours at public launches and new fees.
“There are still a lot of questions to be answered,” David Wick, executive director of the LGPC, said during a meeting of the group’s Aquatic Invasive Species Committee in Ticonderoga Sept. 7. “No decisions have been made. We’re meeting with people and exploring options.”
Invasive species are reaching the lake, Wick said, from boats that have been in other bodies of water and carry the unwanted hitchhikers.
The committee is meeting every two weeks in communities around the lake as it prepares to make recommendations on how to best deal with the problem of invasive species. Wick expects the LGPC to decide on possible regulations this fall and implement them in 2013.
“We want to make it (lake access) as easy as possible, especially for those who regularly use Lake George,” said Dean Cook of Ticonderoga, a LGPC commissioner. “The idea is to protect the lake from invasive species coming from other lakes. This is serious business.”
Wick said the LGPC has four options:
— It can do nothing.
— It can ask boaters to participate in voluntary inspections.
— It can require mandatory inspection and decontamination of boats.
— It can rely on self-certification by boaters themselves.
Mandatory inspection and decontamination of boats is the best defense against invasive species, Wick said, but it would be a major change and expense.
There are 103 boat access points, most private, on Lake George, Wick said. Those launches would have to regulated. Public launches would include decontamination units to clean boats. Those launches would only be open certain hours. The LGPC would also need to purchase the decontamination equipment and hire employees to man each launch. A single permanent decontamination unit can cost $250,000, Wick said.
The decontamination process takes 35-40 minutes, Wick said.
“It’s an involved process,” he said. “If it’s just he hull it’s not a big deal. But you need to get into all the nooks and crannies of the engine and boat to do a complete job.”
Dave Iuliano, a Ticonderoga town board member, asked if decontamination would be practical on a busy weekend or during a fishing tournament when as many as 100 boats are waiting to get into the lake.
Cook said in the case of fishing tournaments boats could be decontaminated the night before. No one offered any idea how boat launch traffic would flow during other periods.
Wick said the LGPC will ask the state to pay for an invasive species program, but acknowledged the cost of the decontaminated program would likely be borne by boaters, who would pay a fee when launching.
“There is no program in place; we’re still considering options,” Wick stressed to the two dozen people at the Ticonderoga meeting. “No one wants to diminish the recreational capacity of Lake George. We’re asking for feedback on these options.”
Wick said the committee had held three meetings on the invasive species problem. The majority of people attending those meetings support the mandatory inspection and decontamination option, he said.
Iuliano expressed concern the possible regulations could discourage tourism and hurt the local economy.
“I understand the importance of protecting Lake George,” he said, “but we’ve built our communities around tourism. This will have a major impact.”
Wick said the LGPC is aware of possible impacts on tourism, but said the long-term problem may be much worse.
“If we don’t do something, the outcome is very clear,” Wick said. “We’re trying not to impact short-term business interests while protecting the long-term health of the lake.”
Wick and Cook repeatedly referred to Lake Tahoe, Calif., where asian clams have over-run the lake. They pointed to a 2009 Lake Tahoe study that estimated invasive species are costing the local economy $20 million annually.
Lake George currently has five invasive species in its waters— asian clam, eurasian milfoil, zebra mussels, curlyleaf pondweed and spiny waterflea. The LGPC spends more than $1 million a year to manage and eradicate invasive invasive species.
Cook stressed the expense of any invasive species prevention program is money well spent.
“It’s much cheaper to keep invasives out that to remove them,” Cook said.
Wick admitted no program will be 100 percent successful in the fight against invasive species. He believes the mandatory inspection and decontamination can eliminate 98 percent of invasive species from reaching Lake George.
The LGPC proposals for fighting invasive species are outlines on the agency’s website, www.lgpc.state.ny.us
“There’s no smoke or mirrors,” Wick said. “All the information has been made available to the public. We’ve had meetings like this; it’s on our website.
“At the end of the day the (LGPC) commissioners will make a decision,” he added.