A mandatory boat inspection program has been put on hold while the state develops a more comprehensive plan for keeping invasive species out of Lake George.
The Lake George Park Commission had been working on the mandatory boat inspection and washing proposal, including a projected $40 inspection fee, for much of 2012.
Instead, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Lake George Park Commission will develop a long-term plan for protecting Lake George from invasive species.
Aquatic invasive species such as Eurasian milfoil, zebra mussels and Asian clams are already found in the lake. Lake officials want to make sure another five or six other damaging invasive species don’t also find their way into the lake on boats coming from other lakes and rivers.
Dave Wick, the park commission’s executive director, said Friday that it will take the summer and fall to develop an environmental impact statement for the plan, seek public input, and ensure that all reasonable alternatives are considered.
One of these alternatives to be considered is mandatory inspections and boat washing, Wick said.
“While much has been done to combat invasive species, we know more must be done and that is why Governor [Andrew] Cuomo has asked us to take immediate action as well as complete a comprehensive environmental review to determine how we can combat invasive species in Lake George,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens in a statement released Jan. 16.
The state also announced it will help fund the Lake George Association’s boat steward program in which paid stewards check boats for invasive species entering the lake at five locations around the 32-mile-long lake.
Emily DeBolt, the Lake George Association’s education director, said nine lake stewards worked from June through August last summer. The DEC is offering the lake association an estimated $20,000 so that the stewards, many of them college students on summer break, can work an extended season from May through September.
DeBolt said the stewards talk about the danger of invasive species with boaters entering the lake, asking them to make sure their boats and trailers are “clean, drained and dry.” The stewards also remove any invasive species found on the outside of the boats.
Last boating season the stewards removed 131 aquatic invasive species from boats entering the lake, DeBolt said.
The other DEC initiatives for the 2013 boating season include increased DEC and park commission boat patrols on the lake with officers trained in preventing the spread of invasive species. These patrols will concentrate on boat launch areas.
Martens said the DEC and Lake George Park Commission will also “develop and implement a more comprehensive outreach program to local and regional boaters who come to Lake George on how they can reduce the spread of invasive species.”
A total of $50,000 from the state Environmental Protection Fund will be devoted to the new initiatives, including funding for the lake steward expansion.
Another $200,000 from the Environmental Protection Fund will be used to help contain and prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species already in Lake George, including Asian clams.
John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council said his environmental advocacy group still supports the earlier plans for a mandatory trailered boat inspection and washing program.
He said, however, the state’s dedication of resources to the invasive species problems on Lake George is appreciated.
“We believe that if they study the issue they will find that boat inspection is the most effective means of preventing invasives from getting into the lake,” Sheehan said.
He said the Adirondack Council will be happy to work with the state on the new initiatives and environmental impact statement process.
“It’s progress that is important,” Sheehan said. He said the state’s announcement on Jan. 16 represented progress.