Thomas Jefferson once wrote in a letter to his daughter, “Lake George is without comparison, the most beautiful water I ever saw ...”
Many would agree with that assessment, traveling to the lake from near and far to boat, fish, swim, sunbathe, hang glide or climb the mountains that rise from its shores on both sides.
But they don’t see what’s underneath — i.e. the Eurasian Milfoil, Asian clams and other invasive species that threaten the health of the lake and its tourism-based economy.
It’s important not only to keep these from spreading, but to keep new invasive species out.
A mandatory boat inspection program set to begin May 15 is the best way to do it.
The program, which calls for all trailered boats to be inspected and, if necessary, decontaminated before entering the lake, has been in the works for a few years.
It has widespread support among the usually contentious interests around the lake, including environmentalists and anti-regulation business owners and local officials.
It replaces a voluntary public education program used for eight years that did not prevent the introduction of two new invasive species: Asian clams and spiny water fleas. And there are another two serious threats on the horizon — quagga mussels and hydrilla — already found in the Great Lakes and Finger Lakes.
The mandatory inspection program, championed by the Lake George Park Commission, is modeled after one adopted for Lake Tahoe in 2009. There have been no new infestations there since.
The cost of the program will be $700,000 for each of the first two years, split evenly between the state and Park Commission, which has contributed some of its own money and raised more from local governments and advocacy groups. The money will go for inspectors and washing facilities, as well as increased patrols.
But after the two years, a long-term funding source must be found, and increased boat and dock fees would seem the most reliable and fairest way.
Local governments have spent $1.5 million in the last three years trying, unsuccessfully, to control the Asian clam, and more than $7 million to control other invasives in the last 20 years.
But control at best means containment, not eradication. That’s why it is so important to keep new invasive species out, and why mandatory boat inspections are needed.
The Lake George Park Commission deserves credit for getting the program established, and now, as May 15 approaches, launching a comprehensive campaign that includes media ads, letters to boat owners and a website, to publicize it.