Ad’k Council: Boat washing should be mandatory park-wide

A state law requiring boaters to take “reasonable” care not to spread invasive species is set to expire June 1, and the Adirondack Council wants to not only see it renewed but wants state legislators to require mandatory boat washing across the Adirondack Park.

Some local lawmakers, however, wonder how it would be funded.

The current environmental conservation law requires all boaters transporting vessels in the state to make sure they’re not also carrying harmful and non-native plants and animals. That means boaters should do things like clean, drain and dry their boats before going into a new water body, the state Department of Environmental Conservation said in an emailed statement.

The legislation has been successful, the DEC added, and it “supports extending our authority to ensure boaters are taking reasonable precautions to remove potential invasive species before they launch their boats.

“Last year alone, DEC’s successful Adirondack aquatic invasive species prevention program conducted nearly 100,000 boat inspections with more than 4,600 interceptions of invasive species,” the DEC continued.

The law was passed five years ago with a sunset provision, according to the Adirondack Council.

If the law lapsed, it would not impact the mandatory inspections the state already requires on Lake George and Chestertown’s Loon Lake, but it could mean less monitoring and protection on others.

Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake, expects the law to come up for a vote in the next week or two, she said in a phone interview Thursday. She thought it would pass and added that “boat inspections are a really effective way to control the spread of invasive species from one water body to the next.”

State Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, would like to see the law renewed, she said in an emailed statement Thursday.

“This is important not only for the Adirondacks and North Country region, but for many other areas of New York,” Little said.

She plans to meet with Sen. Todd Kaminsky, chairman of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, next week to discuss the matter.

William Janeway, executive director of the Adirondack Council, said in a news release that legislators should add a provision requiring that all boats be decontaminated before being launched into Adirondack waters.

“Mandatory boat washing is the most effective way to limit the spread of invasive species from one place to another,” Janeway said. “Prevention is always easier and less expensive than trying to remove a troublesome invader later on.”

The Lake George Park Commission, a state agency that oversees Lake George, already requires this. It has proven successful, too.

A five-year review of the program showed that inspectors kept out spiny water flea, rusty crayfish and water chestnut, among others, from Lake George.

The inspections and boat washes are free to the public, but the program is funded through a 50-50 cost-sharing between the state Environmental Protection Fund and local municipalities and nonprofit organizations.

Several lake associations in the Adirondacks have already been able to purchase their own boat washing stations, like Schroon Lake. But for those waterbodies that might need financial help, Woerner wondered how a park-wide inspection program would be funded.

“I think certainly if organizations like the environmental groups in the Adirondacks were to call for a portion of the funding that they get through the EPF (Environmental Protection Fund) each year to be dedicated to the DEC funding wanting those boat inspection launches, that would be a great idea,” Woerner said.

Little and the Adirondack Council also pointed to a new boat washing station that will open at the Adirondack Welcome Center south of Northway Exit 18 in Queensbury.

The DEC has said a grand opening is anticipated in the late spring.