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‘Loophole’ filled in boat inspection plan

Saturday, December 7, 2013
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Thanks to our snappingly cold late fall, some bays around the edges of Lake George have already frozen, and winter is still two weeks away.

Whether Old Friend Winter freezes the whole lake by February or not, spring will eventually come, and by then, this Adirondack lake will almost certainly be the first in the Eastern U.S. to make inspections mandatory before boats are launched.

The stakes in keeping invasive species out of the lake are so high that state, county and local officials are all in agreement — unusual agreement — about the need for action, with only details to haggle over. One of those details has been how to deal with launches outside regular inspection hours, but there’s progress on that.

The Lake George Park Commission earlier this week adopted a final environmental impact statement, including a final tweak that allows for launch sites to be staffed as much as 24 hours a day, up from a previous maximum of 18 hours.

The extension of hours — at least in theory, if the cost can be covered — will allow for a “monitor” to keep an eye on launches during the overnight hours when a trained inspection technician isn’t on duty.

The park commission’s plan, as it stands, is to have technicians staffing the five approved launch sites from roughly sunrise to sundown during the boating season.

All along, however, some of the lake’s biggest advocates have called the lack of pre-dawn inspection hours a “loophole,” noting some fishermen want to be on the lake earlier than even Stewart’s sells coffee.

In the final environmental impact statement, the commission is allowing that in some locations the inspectors could be on duty as early at 3 a.m., and monitors could be on hand around the clock.

The S.A.V.E. Lake George Partnership, which includes all the municipalities around the lake, praised the idea of having monitors as a way to close the “after-hours loophole.” The monitors wouldn’t be inspection technicians and wouldn’t have any enforcement powers, but it’s hoped their mere presence would deter anyone looking to dodge inspection.

“Not only will monitors provide a crucial ‘eyes-on’ presence, they will also collect important information on the level of launch demand during off-hours,” said Ron Conover, the Bolton town supervisor.

Lake George village Mayor Robert Blais has often pointed out it only takes one boat to introduce a new invasive species, and there’s no telling when it might be launched.

Already, the park commission and the Lake George Association are spending millions of dollars to fight invasive species, including Asian clams and Eurasian water milfoil. What they don’t want is to see the arrival of the prolific quagga mussel and new plant species like hydrilla and water chestnuts. All have been found at other water bodies in the Northeast, and none are good news.

The commission’s plan is to mandate that all trailer-carried boats be checked at inspection station/launch sites to be established in Lake George, Bolton, Hague, Ticonderoga and Queensbury. If a boat passes inspection, a seal is attached as proof it has passed.

Hot-water decontamination will be available for boats that show signs of invasives contamination, as it was on a voluntary basis last summer.

The commission’s goal is to adopt final inspection regulations in late January and start the inspection system May 15.

 
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