It may be the prettiest, but Lake George isn’t the only body of water in the state with an invasive species problem. And it shouldn’t be the only one with a program aimed at limiting their spread.
The best way to do that is to require that recreational boaters wash their boats before putting them in the water, something the Lake George Park Commission is preparing to do for that lake as early as this spring, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation has just proposed for all its boat launches. It’s a welcome step by the DEC, but, without extra resources for enforcement, not enough.
The Lake George rules have been in the works for a few years and have widespread support among the usually contentious interests around the lake, including environmentalists and anti-regulation business owners and local officials.
That’s because they all recognize the environmental and economic threat posed by invasive species such as zebra mussels and Eurasian milfoil, which can deprive lakes of oxygen and nutrients and make them less attractive to boaters, fishermen, swimmers and tourists. The usual methods of control — killing them with chemicals and taking them out by hand — are expensive (millions of dollars have been been spent doing so at Lake George in recent years) and not a long-term solution.
The Lake George program calls for multiple boat washing stations, mandatory boat inspections and added patrols. The $750,000 annual cost will be split 50-50 between the state and locals for the first two years, until a longer-term funding source can be established.
The DEC proposal is far more modest — too modest. Although it calls for a fine of as much as $250 for violations or 15 days in jail, there’s no commitment to new washing facilities or enforcement.
There needs to be — at least in the most sensitive and threatened areas, such as the Adirondacks and Finger Lakes. If the state believes invasive species are a very serious and growing problem, and they are, it must put its money where its mouth is for a solution.