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Editorial: Save Lake George from new invasive species

Editorial: Save Lake George from new invasive species

Mandatory boat inspections the only way

It’s summer, and visitors — whether they’re driving by it, boating on it or climbing the mountains that rise above it — are marveling at the beauty of Lake George. But beneath the surface is a serious threat to the lake’s ecology and the Adirondacks’ economy: exotic species.

There are already several of these invaders, including Zebra mussels and Eurasian Milfoil, and it’s critical that new ones be kept out. How best to do that will be the question facing the Lake George Park Commission when it meets July 30 to adopt a strategy.

The commission spelled out a number of options in a draft proposal to deal with invasive species released in April. But its preferred option is the only one with a real chance of success: mandatory inspections for boats trailered to the lake, with mandatory washing if necessary. It has worked in other lakes where it has been implemented, including Lake Tahoe.

The other methods, some of which are being employed this summer — voluntary inspections, spot checks by enforcement agencies, and boater education — won’t work in the long run. New invasives will inevitably be brought in.

That’s why there is such widespread support for mandatory inspections, including from local officials, environmentalists and business owners — groups that usually don’t agree on much. Even though such a system would be costly (as much as $700,000 annually), increase regulation and restrict access to the lake, they recognize that it is necessary. In fact, the mayor of Lake George and the supervisors of the towns of Lake George and Bolton have offered to match whatever the state contributes. No matter the cost, it will be less than the costs of fighting the invasive species and the lost tourism because of them.

Many, including us, had hoped the mandatory program could be started this year. The commission, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation — which is a member, and a very influential one — should approve the plan on July 30 so it can be in place by next year.

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