No one would argue that efforts should be taken to keep Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) out of the Queen of American Lakes.
No one would argue that the introduction of these species is detrimental to the ecosystem, to water quality, to intakes and pipes, or that it costs millions to eradicate them once introduced.
No one would argue that the lake steward program, overseen by the Lake George Association, has been a success, or that legislation making it illegal to introduce invasive species into Lake George was ill-conceived.
All of that makes perfect sense.
What doesn’t make sense is the agenda of a minority of the Lake George Park Commission whose goal seems to be gating every boat launch and placing uniformed invasive species police in place to inspect every vessel.
What doesn’t make sense is to punish the boaters who cannot afford a pricey dock slip yet still want to enjoy this breathtaking lake as often as those who can.
What doesn’t make sense is to drive away the area’s life-blood in the form of tourists, fishermen and day-trippers with expensive boat washing fees and long lines when they can easily travel to other communities to spend their money without the headaches.
Yet that is what we see materializing should the boat washing plan forge ahead as proposed by the Committee on Invasive Species Spread Prevention — a three-man subset of the Lake George Park Commission.
The group has been lobbying hard with local officials and environmental groups for a full scale, lake-wide boat inspection and washing program that would place sentries at boat launches, and send boats suspected of contamination to a central washing facility, where they would be hosed down with 140-degree water.
At an average of $30 a pop.
In theory, the idea of asking transient boaters to wash their boats before launching in Lake George is a good one. It has been the objective of the LGA’s lake steward program since its inception.
But the plan currently on the table seems to evoke more questions than provide answers.
For example — when would the launches be open to the public? Fishermen like to get an early start, others like to watch the Thursday night fireworks downtown. Would launches be open at these times?
And how about the mandatory two-week drying period required after a boat is pulled from the water. If you’re lucky, we get about a three-month boating season in these parts. If you have to wait two weeks between launches, that would allow about six times out without a $30 washdown.
It is expensive enough for those who live off the lake to access it — asking them to fork over $30 several times a year is simply not practical.
The lake was put here for everyone to enjoy. Let’s keep it that way.
At the same time, this system would rely on the word of the person launching the boat.
If faced with the decision of telling a little white lie to the 21-year-old sunburned sentry or sitting in an hour-long line to pay $30 for a boat scrubbing, how do you think many will answer?
The plan might be less discriminatory and the lake might be better protected by just mandating that all boats be washed down.
Then there’s the cost of operation. The state Department of Environmental Conservation — with its ever-shrinking budget —doesn’t seem to want to touch this one with a 10-foot pole.
But the vast majority of launches dotting the lake are private. Should these businesses be required to pick up the cost of overseeing the program?
Who will pay for the $250,000 wash stations? The state? You’d have a better chance of taking up a collection among waterfront owners.
And, finally, will all the expense and extra hassle truly keep invasives from Lake George? Can anyone actually say with certainty if any of this will have a benefit at a reasonable cost?
The answer, of course, is no.
Invasives can be introduced from a bait bucket, from migrant waterfowl, on the bottoms of cartop boats and unemptied bilges.
Does that mean the Park Commission should ignore the threat?
But much more research needs to be done before commissioners pull the trigger on a plan that seems to have been contrived in backroom secrecy with input from a select few.
For a plan of this magnitude to be accepted, all the stakeholders need to be involved in the process and a referendum may be in order. Only then will the majority support it and get behind the effort of keeping invasives from our waters.
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