Lake George Park Commission Executive Director Dave Wick (center) tells park commission members Tuesday July 23 about ongoing projects in Lake George intended to protect water quality and recreational uses. Minutes before, the commission voted unanimously to establish a mandated watercraft inspection program to protect Lake George from the threat of invasive species.
Mandatory inspection and decontamination of trailered boats prior to launching into Lake George — to curb introduction of invasive species — is now closer to reality.
The Lake George Park Commission voted Tuesday July 23 to establish such regulations, and their action was immediately hailed as a landmark decision by local lawmakers and environmental leaders.
After the unanimous vote was taken in the commission’s meeting held at a Georgian Resort banquet room, Lake George Town Supervisor Dennis Dickinson stepped up to thank the commissioners.
“This is a monumental, celebratory moment,” he said. “This decision is a giant step forward.”
Eric Siy of the Fund for Lake George followed with his reaction.
“This is a great day for Lake George and all who care about her precious waters,” he said. “I applaud the commission for taking this valiant step.”
For two years, environmentalists and area government leaders have warned that if a mandatory inspection program and boat washing program weren’t established, Lake George would become increasingly infested with fast-multiplying invasive mollusks and lakeweeds that would foul the waters and detract from recreation — as has occurred in other waterways around the nation.
Specifics of the draft legislation are to be posted on the commission’s website on Wednesday July 23.
The commission’s decision for mandatory inspection next goes to a series of two public hearings this fall, then to Gov. Cuomo for the ultimate decision.
Cuomo’s approval of the regulations is anticipated later this fall, local leaders said. Wick said that members of his agency was already discussing details of implementation and funding with the governor’s office.
“We’re going to go forward with all our resources to put the regulations into place,” Wick said.
After-hours access to the lake and funding the annual program cost — estimated at $700,000 — are still to be determined, he said.
State Department of Environmental Conservation officials — balking last year on a mandated inspection program because they were wary of hindering sport-fishing and boat traffic — will be weighing in on how the program is to be implemented.
Wick predicted cooperation from DEC this time around, however.
“We’ll be working with DEC hand-in-hand,” Wick said.
Local leaders said such collaboration was likely, considering that DEC Region 5 Director Robert Stegemann serves on the Commission and he voted for the program.
The S.A.V.E. Lake George Partnership, consisting of local governments and environmental groups, has offered to contribute half the cost of the program, Wick said.
At Tuesday’s commission meeting, Dickinson spoke on behalf of the partnership — he presented a document to the commissioners, calling for the program to include effective ways of making sure boats were clean before they were launched after hours, if such a practice was to be permitted. The after-hours proposals include either extended hours at selected launch sites, gating off the launch sites, and/or installing video monitoring equipment to assure that regulations were being followed.
These are among the many specifics that need to be worked out, Wick said, adding that a program could be in place next year.
A coalition of municipalities surrounding the lake has purchased three wash stations, and the town of Lake George is expecting to have one delivered soon, Bolton Town Supervisor Ron Conover said, noting that local government has already accomplished a lot to control invasives. He added that Tuesday’s decision culminated a lengthy process to get everyone, including sport-fishing groups, on board.
“It’s been a fine regional effort that brought together diverse groups with opposing opinions, getting everyone focused on the lake. It’s been a great team effort,” he said. “Today is a great day for Lake George.”