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Free boat inspection, decontamination stations open Memorial Day weekend

Adirondack Watershed Institute stewards take part in a two-week training recently at Paul Smith’s College to learn techniques for implementing “Clean, Drain and Dry” at area boat launches. (Provided photo — Connor Vara, AWI)

PAUL SMITHS — Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute is offering free boat inspections and decontaminations starting on Memorial Day weekend at more than 60 boat launches and road-side locations across the Adirondack region to help the public stop the spread of aquatic invasive species.

AWI staff educate boaters, anglers and other visitors about aquatic invasive species and inspect and decontaminate their boats to meet the “Clean, Drain and Dry” standard required by New York state.

The program operates on behalf of the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Adirondack Aquatic Invasive Species Spread Prevention Program to help the public observe the New York spread prevention law which prohibits invasive plants and animals on boats launching into lakes, ponds and rivers.

The AWI-operated boat steward program is the largest in the state and hires more than 100 seasonal staff to run decontamination stations and boat inspection locations at popular boat launches throughout the Adirondacks and northern New York.

The spread prevention network contains the busiest launches such as those found at Great Sacandaga Lake, Lake Champlain, the Saranac and Fulton lake chains, and Lake Placid as well as launches at smaller lakes that are either vulnerable to invasion or pose a threat of invasive species spread to surrounding waterbodies. This year Mirror Lake will have its first watershed steward to inspect the non-motorized boats that access this lake in the village of Lake Placid.

“In the 2020 season, we saw a 25% increase in boaters compared with 2019, and we anticipate another busy season at the launches this year,” said Dan Kelting, executive director of AWI. “We have a great group of dedicated and committed seasonal staff working hard to protect our waterways and helping the public take precautions against the spread of aquatic invasive species.”

Eurasian watermilfoil, variable leaf milfoil and curly-leaf pondweed are the most common aquatic invasive species found in Adirondack waterways. Water chestnut, spiny water flea, Asian clams and zebra mussels are not as common but just are as threatening. These nonnative plants and animals degrade water quality, significantly limit fishing, swimming and boating opportunities, and cost towns and lake associations millions of dollars to manage.

“Boat inspections aren’t mandatory, but our goal is to encourage the boating public to voluntarily take measures to ensure their boats aren’t inadvertently transporting invasive species from one lake to another,” said Eric Paul, AWI’s stewardship program director. “We want to thank the public in advance for their participation in this program.”

The boat inspection and decontamination stations are cooperatively funded by New York state’s Environmental Protection Fund, USEPA-Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Lake Champlain Basin Program, numerous lake associations, private foundations and municipalities. The Mirror Lake steward was funded by a grant from the Local Enhancement and Advancement Fund (LEAF), a new program derived from a dedicated 2% Essex County occupancy tax that was implemented in June 2020.

Information about inspection and decontamination station locations, aquatic invasive species ecology and steps the public can take to maintain the quality of New York’s waterways is at www.adkcleanboats.org.

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