Preventing the spread of invasive species with mandatory boat inspections financed by increased registration fees received wide support at a public hearing Tuesday in Lake George.
It was the first of two public hearings by the Lake George Park Commission, which has a draft plan for aquatic invasive species prevention it hopes to approve this summer. A range of options are being considered, said commission Executive Director David Wick, but the preferred option in a study prepared for the commission is mandatory boat inspections.
“What we’re trying to do is prevent the next invasive species from coming into Lake George,” he said, identifying the Quagga mussel and bloody red shrimp as two of many invasive species that could ruin the lake. “We’re very afraid about getting these in.”
Lake George has spent millions trying to eradicate current invasive species, including Eurasian watermilfoil, the Asian clam, spiny water flea and zebra mussels.
Wick outlined a proposal that would set up five regional inspection sites around the lake. The system would be funded by doubling boat registration fees, which would raise about $550,000, and a $40 annual inspection fee, which would raise about $100,000.
Chester town Supervisor Fred Monroe endorsed mandatory inspections as a cost-effective measure, considering how much eradication costs. Walt Lender, executive director of the Lake George Association, a group dedicated to preserving the lake, said his diverse selection of members was very supportive of mandatory inspections.
Lake George Water Quality Committee member Lisa Adamson said the invasive species issue is urgent and inspections should be in place for 2014.
“We are facing a crisis on this lake,’ she said.
To gather support for the measure, Adamson said she and her members would reach out on a “neighbor to neighbor level” to educate people about the issue.
Noting the impact invasive species have on tourism and property values, Ballston Spa resident John Olenik said local businesses and homeowners should share some of the costs associated with the inspection program.
“Let’s have the greater community share in the costs,” he said, expressing his feeling that boaters already paid a lot in fees to get on Lake George.
Another speaker questioned the effectiveness of mandatory inspections, which would be followed by a warm power wash if anything was noticed. He said there are other ways to spread invasive species, such as through fishing gear or paddles, which would not be covered by boat inspections.
Before Wick finished his presentation, he stressed mandatory inspections were not set in stone.
The next hearing on this issue is scheduled for June 12 at the Best Western in Ticonderoga.
A copy of the proposed preventative measures can be found on the Capital Region Scene blog at www.dailygazette.com.