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Boat inspections foiling invasive species

Boat inspections foiling invasive species

Long Lake was nearly invaded by zebra mussels this spring, and by curly- leaf pondweed, another wate

Long Lake was nearly invaded by zebra mussels this spring, and by curly- leaf pondweed, another water-borne invasive species.

Neither belongs in the popular Hamilton County lake, though both have footholds elsewhere in the Adirondack Park.

Fortunately, the boats that would have inadvertently carried them into Long Lake were stopped, inspected and washed as part of state and local efforts to prevent invasives from spreading.

Already this year, those efforts have blocked hundreds of invasives from getting into Adirondack lakes and streams, according to the Adirondack Park Invasive Species Prevention Program.

The 284 instances of invasives found through boat inspections through last week — including the Long Lake example — are more than was anticipated, said Brendan Quirion, the program’s director.

“It’s higher this year than normal. We think it’s in part due to the mild winter and warm spring weather promoting plant growth,” he said.

The 284 instances were found as the prevention program conducted 8,450 boat inspections, officials said.

Boats and trailers are the most common way in which invasive species are unintentionally spread between bodies of water.

Quirion said that in lakes that already have invasive plants like Eurasian milfoil, they were growing to the surface by the first week in May this year, where they could catch in propellers, with fragments staying on the boat. “There’s a much higher chance of aquatic plants being transported by boats that way,” he said.

The invasive species prevention program, which launched Adirondacks-wide in 2015 with $1 million in state funding, has about $1.5 million this year, between state grants to local communities, private funds from groups like lake associations and money left from last year, Quirion said.

The funding is allowing for 20 inspection stations scattered around the Adirondacks, with a goal of having 25 by the end of the season. There are also stewards who can direct boats to the nearest inspection stations working at more than 50 locations.

Adirondack Watershed Institute Stewardship Program Director Eric Holmlund agreed that the numbers are high, given that it’s early in the plant growing season.

“We request that boat operators do the right thing and inspect and clean their own watercraft before and after each and every use,” said Holmlund, whose organization is based at Paul Smiths College and provides many of the stewards.

Quirion said the state spending is worthwhile to keep out invasives, which are even more costly to fight once they’re in a water body.

“If you think of just one lake association, like the one on Upper Saranac Lake, where they’ve already spent millions, it’s a very good investment of resources,” Quirion said.

The park-wide program remains voluntary for boaters, though a state regulation that took effect this spring requires boaters to take “reasonable precautions” to not spread invasives.

Lake George has had a mandatory inspection program since 2014, and was the first lake east of the Mississippi with such a program.

“Ultimately aquatic invasive species are ecological terrorists,” said Eric Siy, executive director of the Fund for Lake George, which helps pay for the program. “Stopping them from destroying our priceless natural heritage requires an all-consuming commitment across sectors and levels of government.”

Information on boat regulations and inspection stations is available at adkcleanboats.com.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, swilliams@dailygazette.net or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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