The Lake George Park Commission has begun laying the groundwork for mandatory boat inspections to prevent the introduction of invasive plant and animal species into the lake, which is used by thousands of boaters each year.
The commission approved a draft invasive species prevention plan and environmental impact statement Tuesday that declares mandatory inspections of boats being trailered to the lake the “preferred alternative” for preventing more invaders.
The draft plan is available for public review and comment through June 25.
Officials for lake advocacy groups said a mandatory inspection program wouldn’t start until 2014, at the earliest.
There will, however, be an increased number of voluntary inspection and boat wash stations this year.
“Keeping new invasive species out of Lake George is a top priority action for the commission,” said commission Chairman Bruce Young.
Groups such as the Lake George Association and Fund for Lake George support the idea of mandatory inspections.
“There is tremendous consensus among the state, Lake George’s surrounding communities, chambers of commerce and many other groups that the lake needs strong and comprehensive protection from new invasive species,” Young said. “This draft plan identifies potential options to protect the lake, and now we want to hear from the public.”
A public hearing will be held May 21 at a location yet to be determined, commission officials said.
Invasive species are non-native plants and animals that, when introduced in an ecosystem, can rapidly reproduce and overwhelm the environment. Lake George has had Eurasian watermilfoil since 1986, and millions of dollars have been spent fighting it.
More recently, the lake also has developed problems with the Asian clam, spiny water flea and zebra mussel. More than $1.5 million has been spent in just the last two years to try to eradicate Asian clams.
The “preferred alternative” identified by the LA Group of Saratoga Springs, the plan’s consultant, is a mandatory inspection program for all trailered boats entering Lake George, and decontaminating boats that don’t pass inspection with hot water power wash. To implement such a program, officials said, boat registration fees would have to rise.
The draft plan and impact statement is available on the commission website, www.lgpc.state.ny.us.