EDITORIAL: Require boat inspections to stop spread of invasive species

Zebra mussels, an invasive species of fresh water mussels, on the propeller and shaft of a sailing yacht.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Zebra mussels, an invasive species of fresh water mussels, on the propeller and shaft of a sailing yacht.

If you own a boat, you know the joy of cruising through a clean, weed-free lake.

You might also know what a nuisance it is to traverse through the tendrils of milfoil and other aquatic plants.

These invasive plants can be spread from waterway to waterway in your boat. Other non-plant invasive species carried on your boat might further harm the waterways you enjoy.

Zebra mussels and Asian clams cling to docks and water intake pipes. Spiny waterfleas traveling with your boat compete for food with native fish and will cling to fishing lines and pole eyelets, making it difficult to reel in your catch.

There are more than 3,000 lakes, 8,000 ponds and 1,500 miles of rivers in the Adirondack Park, used by more than 12 million visitors a year.

So if you’re a boater, it’s in your own best interests and those of your fellow outdoor enthusiasts to ensure that these invasive species are not spread from waterway to waterway on your boat.

The simplest and most effective way to prevent this is through regular inspections and boat washes.

Yet many boaters forgo the opportunity to clean their boats and have them inspected for invasive species.

Right now, stopping at boat washes and inspection stations is voluntary.

But new legislation pending in the Senate would give the state Department of Environmental Conservation the power to make those inspections mandatory.

The bill, S7010A, cosponsored by Queensbury state Sen. Dan Stec, would allow the department to establish invasive species inspection stations up to a 10-mile radius outside the Adirondack Part.

More importantly, it would authorize the state to require vehicles towing motorized boats to stop at inspection stations when open and be subject to inspections.

Inspectors would only be allowed to inspect areas of a boat where invasive species would reasonably be expected to be found, such as the motor transom, the live well, the anchor rope, the hull and the trailer. This isn’t an excuse to let the state search your vehicle and boat for drugs or other contraband.

In addition to giving the DEC more authority to require inspections and cleanings, lawmakers need to ensure the department has the resources (staff and money) to effectively and consistently enforce the provisions. Without that support, the new authority is essentially toothless, and essentially worthless.

It’s in the best interests of boaters to voluntarily stop at inspection stations and to have their boats cleaned of invasive species.

But if they won’t do it voluntarily, the state needs to step in. Now.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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