PAUL SMITHS - Paul Smith's College's Adirondack Watershed Institute won a $332,869 grant to expand its program to control the spread of aquatic invasive species.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Judith Enck, who oversees environmental protection in New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, was in town Friday to announce the grant.
The money will go to help the AWI spread its water stewards, who are already posted at a number of boat launches throughout the summer in the eastern Adirondacks, to locations in the western Adirondacks. The stewards perform voluntary inspections on boats before they're put into the water, and explain how to look for and deal with things like zebra mussels, spiny water fleas and Eurasian watermilfoil.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Judith Enck announces a grant Friday to help expand a local invasive species control program.
(Enterprise photo — Jessica Collier)
Enck said the education aspect of the steward program is important since when one person learns about invasives, they tell others about it and the word starts to spread.
"It's little steps - person by person, boat by boat," Enck said.
Enck said extending the water steward program to the Black, Raquette and Oswegatchie river watersheds is meant to protect Lake Ontario, since they flow into it. It's part of the EPA's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which Enck said President Barack Obama made a priority after he was elected, since he's from Chicago and is familiar with the challenges facing the Great Lakes there.
Invasive species are a problem in much of the Great Lakes region but have largely not reached eastern Lake Ontario or its surrounding watersheds, according to an EPA press release.
The Paul Smith's grant is one of several across the state which add up to about $3.4 million.
"I can think of no finer academic institution than Paul Smith's College to receive this grant with this amazing watershed institution," Enck said.
She said she hopes students will be involved in the steward program.
"Students are our next generation of environmental stewards," Enck said.
College President John Mills noted that it can cost large amounts of money to deal with invasive species once they have set in.
"It's cheaper to do prevention than it is to do remediation," Mills said. "So once we get out there and we educate the public, we're actually going to be saving community dollars on having to attack this problem."
Watershed Institute Executive Director Dan Kelting said it cost about $1.5 million over three years to reduce the amount of Eurasian watermilfoil from Upper Saranac Lake, and now people there have to spend $100,000 to $200,000 a year to keep it maintainable levels.
Eric Holmlund, director of the Watershed Stewardship Program, said it's simple steps like washing a boat, letting it fully dry and draining the bilges after each use that can prevent invasives from spreading. He said those things should eventually become second nature to boaters, just as people used to have to be told regularly to put on seat belts in cars but it's now automatic.