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Boat stewards prepare for season

Jeff Sann with the Adirondack Watershed Institute’s Stewardship Program, based at Paul Smith’s College, demonstrates washing a boat in May 2019 during the opening of the Adirondack Welcome Center’s boat washing and inspection station in Queensbury. (Provided photo — Gwendolyn Craig, The Post-Star)

PAUL SMITHS — Paul Smith’s College’s Adirondack Watershed Institute will provide free boat inspections and decontaminations starting Memorial Day weekend at nearly 100 locations across the region to help the public stop the spread of aquatic invasive species.

The AWI operates the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Adirondack Aquatic Invasive Species Spread Prevention Program to help the public observe New York’s Aquatic Invasive Species Spread Prevention law, which prohibits invasive plants and animals on boats launching into the state’s lakes, ponds and rivers. The program includes decontamination stations and boat inspections at popular boat launches throughout the Adirondacks.

These stewards have been deemed exempt from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “New York State on PAUSE” executive order. AWI is working closely with the DEC and local medical professionals to provide guidelines and provide stewards with the necessary COVID-19 personal protective equipment. The stewards are also receiving training to protect themselves and the public from the threat of spreading coronavirus while at the launches. The public can expect to see stewards wearing face masks, practicing safe social distancing protocols and taking other preventative measures to keep themselves and the visiting public safe.

“Along with our partners, we have carefully considered the responsibilities of boat stewards and believe this work lends itself to and can be conducted in a safe manner consistent with social distancing guidelines,” AWI Executive Director Dan Kelting said in a press release. “We are asking the public to be considerate of our stewards and to do their part to protect themselves and our stewards at the boat launches.”

The AWI asks the public to follow these steps:

¯ Be courteous by wearing a face covering at the launches and while interacting with stewards.

¯ Maintain at least 6 feet of social distance between you and others.

¯ Be patient. Launching and inspecting your boat for aquatic invasive species may take longer than normal due to social distancing and other challenges related to safety protocols.

Some AWI inspection sites are located within state campgrounds, which are closed until at least June 1. Until further notice, these inspection sites will not be in operation until campgrounds reopen. In addition, the Lake Flower boat launch, which is currently closed due to construction, will not operate as an inspection station. Further, a small number of decontamination stations will be delayed in opening.

However, the inspection and decontamination station at the Adirondacks Welcome Center on Interstate 87 northbound, near Exit 18 in Glens Falls, will be open this weekend. This season marks the second year of operation there. Constructed and opened in 2019, the station provides easily accessible services at a gateway to the Adirondacks and saves boaters time when they arrive. In 2019 this boat wash station decontaminated more than 400 boats, the highest of any boat wash station within the AWI network.

“We are looking forward to another successful year at the launches,” Kelting said. “We are grateful to have another great group of dedicated and committed staff on the front lines protecting our waterways. We thank the public in advance for their contributions to these efforts and again ask that visitors and residents respect the hard work of our stewards.”

Each of AWI’s stewards will receive a supply of disposable masks and two handmade masks that have been sewn by a local group which has organized to produce masks during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Tri-Lakes Community Makers is a group of 50 local women who have made close to 3,000 masks for front-line health care workers and others in their region. They explored a number of designs, sourced materials locally and donated their time to this effort. They produced nearly 250 masks within eight days for the stewards.

Visit the program’s website at www.adkcleanboats.org for details about inspection and decontamination station location, information about aquatic invasive species ecology and steps the public can take to maintain the quality of New York’s waterways.

The most up-to-date inspection and decontamination station location list will be available on Friday.

The mission of the Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute is to protect clean water, conserve habitat and support the health and well-being of the people in the Adirondacks through science, collaboration and real-world experiences for students.

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