For its natural beauty and sparkling water, Lake George has been called the Queen of American Lakes. But like royalty with their inherited diseases, the lake has been afflicted in recent years — with invasive species such as zebra mussels, Eurasian milfoil and, the latest, spiny waterfleas.
These organisms can do great damage — crowding out native species, decreasing oxygen, interfering with boating, fishing and other recreation, etc. — and are nearly impossible to eradicate once established. That means the best medicine is prevention, and the best way of administering it is a mandatory boat inspection and decontamination plan.
The Lake George Park Commission is considering such a plan, which has worked well in other places around the country, most notably Lake Tahoe in California and Nevada, another beautiful glacial lake with a mountain backdrop. The inspections, which would be conducted at five different sites around the lake, would cost $40 and be mandatory for trailered boats. Those that didn’t pass the inspection would be decontaminated. This would ensure that all trailered boats entering the lake were clean, dry and free of invasive species, including two that are in the vicinity of Lake George but not yet in it: quagga mussels and hydrilla.
This week, five of the major environmental organizations concerned with Adirondack Park issues urged Gov. Cuomo and the state Department of Environmental Conservation to support the proposal, as well as an increase in boat and dock fees to help pay for it (the $40 inspection fee wouldn’t be enough). And they should. The state owns the lake, a precious environmental and economic resource, and has a responsibility to protect it.
The various entities in the Adirondacks disagree on many things, but there is no disagreement about the importance of controlling invasive species in Lake George. Already $7 million has been spent over the last 25 years, from a variety of sources, to do it, and the effort is now costing $1 million a year. A boat inspection regime would cost less and do more good in the long term, because it wouldn’t just control invasive species but keep them out. And it could serve as a model for other lakes in the Adirondacks and elsewhere in the state facing the same threat.