The Adirondack Council and other environmental groups have called on the state to implement a mandatory Adirondack Park-wide boat inspection program. Currently, Lake George is the only lake that has state-imposed regulations. While boat inspection and decontamination are the most effective means to limit the spread of invasive species, this is only done on a volunteer basis at other water bodies, including Upper Saranac Lake.
At the annual North American Invasive Species Management Association conference in October, mandatory boat inspections were discussed at length. The national conference, attended by USF’s Lake Manager, provided an opportunity for scientists and managers to collaborate on solutions to the issues.
While some states have had success with state-wide mandatory inspection programs, it does come with its share of challenges, including cost and staffing. For the Adirondacks, with 3,000 lakes, it wouldn’t be realistic for a boat inspection and decontamination station to be located at every launch. Other states provide mandatory boat inspection stations on main roadways. One such inspection site, although a volunteer site, was recently developed at the newly renovated Northway (I-87) rest area, north of Exit 17. Even just utilizing major thoroughfares, considering the size of the Adirondacks, mandatory boat inspections would be an enormous undertaking.
But can the state afford not to implement a more stringent means of protecting its water bodies? While there is a growing number of volunteer inspection locations in and around the Adirondacks, the number of invasive introductions continues to grow.
Just recently, Hydrilla was intercepted by a Watershed Steward at Lake Champlain’s South Hero launch. Hydrilla is a fast-growing invasive aquatic plant commonly referred to as “Eurasian watermilfoil on steroids.” A multi-million-dollar control effort to control Hydrilla is currently underway in the Finger Lakes. Other states, such as Florida, spend up to $30 million annually on Hydrilla control. An economic impact study commissioned by the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program estimates that if Hydrilla were allowed to establish and spread throughout the Adirondacks, it could result in losses of $6.65 million to $9.5 million annually in direct visitor spending.
This recent intercept on Lake Champlain occurred after Labor Day, after most funding has dried up for the season and most inspections stations have closed. The interception of this plant fragment after Labor Day suggests that at a minimum there is a need for watercraft inspection and decontamination later in the season.
In 2017, a pair of personal watercraft, originating from the Potomac River, attempted to launch at Back Bay on Upper Saranac Lake. Fortunately, Watershed Stewards were there performing routine, courtesy boat and trailer inspections and subsequently detected and removed the Hydrilla.