The state Department of Environmental Conservation has adopted new statewide regulations requiring boaters to take actions to prevent the spread of invasive species.
The rules adopted Thursday require the removal of visible plant and animal matter from all boats using DEC launches and encourages the drying of boats between uses. The rules also cover boat trailers and associated equipment.
The new regulations go into effect immediately.
The rules apply at more than 300 DEC boat launches; the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is drafting similar rules for launch sites it operates.
The adoption comes as concern about how to deal with invasive species has been growing. Lake George this spring became the first lake in the state to be protected by mandatory inspections to prevent the spread of invasive species. Technicians there inspect all boats and perform decontamination as needed, under a program costing $700,000 annually.
The DEC rules don’t go as far, but for the first time, boaters are required to inspect boats and equipment themselves and take action if necessary.
The rules apply at all DEC boat launches, fishing access sites and other DEC lands, but not at private launch sites. They apply to all watercraft — kayaks and canoes carried on vehicle roofs, as well as small or large powerboats and sailboats towed on a trailer.
The goal is to prevent the further spread of aquatic invasives, which include the spiny water flea, zebra mussel, quagga mussel and hydrilla weed. Many are found in some New York lakes, but not others, creating the potential for boats moved between lakes to transport them to new places.
“Boats, trailers and associated equipment are common pathways for spreading aquatic invasive species,” DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens said.
The rules adopted Thursday are the finalization of a draft DEC issued in January. Under the rules, boaters are required to visually inspect their boat, trailer and other fishing and boating equipment and remove all mud, plants and other organisms that might be clinging to them.
Nuisance invasive species disposal stations have been installed at many DEC boat launches, though DEC said collected materials can also be disposed of in the trash or at an inland locations away from the launch ramp.
Nearly as important, boat bilges and bait wells should be drained and dried, because many invasives in their infant stages are too small to see.
Drying boats is “highly recommended,” but not required under the new regulations. Boaters who are unable to dry their boats between uses should flush the bilge and other water-holding compartments with hot water.
DEC said microscopic larval forms of aquatic invasive species, such as zebra mussels and spiny waterfleas, can live in as little as a drop of water, which is why drying boats is important.
The penalty for a violation is a fine of as much as $250 or up to 15 days in jail.
“Environmental conservation officers will be on the lookout for this,” said DEC spokesman Peter Constantakes. “They will be able to advise people, and take enforcement action if necessary.”
About 475,000 boats are registered in New York state, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.