If you visited the Adirondacks over the Memorial Day weekend, you may have noticed more places where visiting boats were being inspected and possibly washed to remove any invasive weeds or marine life.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation has expanded its partnership with Paul Smith's College to provide boat stewards and decontamination equipment operators at 28 sites throughout the Adirondacks, including a number of locations around the southeastern Adirondacks.
Among the new inspection/decontamination locations this year will be the Northway northbound rest area at Glens Falls, and one on the Hudson River in Queensbury. Both spots are near the southern edge of the park. The Broadalbin state boat launch on Great Sacandaga Lake will also have decontamination equipment for the first time this year, according to the Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program.
The state will be spending $1.4 million from its Environmental Protection Fund, after spending about $1 million in each of the last two years in an effort to keep established invasives like watermilfoil and zebra mussels from spreading, as well as keeping new invasives from arriving in the Adirondack Park. The environmentally oriented college in the northern Adirondacks is providing the staffing.
There will be 28 inspection stations in the park this year, up from 20 inspection sites last year, and 53 stewards working. The inspection locations will be open Thursdays through Mondays, including holidays, from Memorial Day weekend through the Labor Day weekend, which is the peak season for Adirondack boating.
In addition to having stewards hired and trained through the college who can do inspections and educate, the locations will have high-pressure hot water decontamination systems that can be used to wash boats that haven't been properly cleaned and dried.
The partnership between the state and Paul Smith's Adirondack Watershed Institute began in 2015 with 14 inspection stations and has expanded each year. Other inspection stations in the park are run by local governments or private lake associations.
Boaters moving from one body of water to another are a primary way that invasive species reach new lakes, ponds, rivers and streams. The risk is that new invasive species can dramatically disturb existing fragile aquatic environments, as milfoil, zebra mussels and Asian clams already have in some areas.
A 2015 study estimated the potential impact if invasive species disrupt the Adirondacks tourism economy at $900 million.
"This is a battle in which vigilance and persistence is absolutely essential," said state Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury.
The $1.4 million allocation is coming from $12 million included in the Environmental Protection Fund for the fight against invasive species.
While the inspection system throughout most of the Adirondacks is voluntary, Lake George has had mandatory inspections for all newly entering boats since 2014, in a program that has been widely praised for its success. The Environmental Protection Fund pays $350,000 toward those annual costs.
DEC advises boaters and those fishing from boats to check their boats, trailers and other equipment for any signs of plant or animal life clinging to them. The goal, state officials said, is that all boats and equipment enter a different body of water "cleaned, drained and dry."