New York Renews Invasive Species Law

From The Adirondack Council newsletter, July 2019:

The Legislature renewed a law that was scheduled to expire June 1 requiring boaters to take measures to prevent the spread of invasive species from one lake or river to another but refused a five-year extension without improvements. The Adirondack Council had advocated for strengthened law that would require decontamination prior to launch in any Adirondack waterbody. While the law was not strengthened, legislative leaders pledged to strengthen the law next year and gave stakeholders time to consider how to make mandatory decontamination work and inform a stronger bill for next year.

Back in March when the state budget was approved it contained the following:

More Clean Water Infrastructure Grants

In April, the Legislature approved $500 million for clean water project funding, on top of the $2.5 billion the Governor has already made available for grants to communities over five years. This will fund projects that help keep partially or untreated sewage or other pollutants out of Adirondack waters and drinking water, such as the Ausable River, the Fulton Chain of Lakes, Lake George, and Lake Champlain. Many Adirondack communities have older systems in need of expensive repairs or have no wastewater treatment systems at all. This will help those communities with unfunded projects.

“We are pleased to see this law will be back on the books as soon as the Governor signs this bill,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. “It’s no secret that we had wanted the new law to include a requirement that all boats be decontaminated before launching in any Adirondack waters. While that is not part of this bill, sponsors have agreed to extend the first law for just one year and to strengthen it further in 2020.”

The bill was sponsored by Assemblyman Steven Englebright, D-Setauket, and Sen. Todd Kaminsky, D-Long Beach.

“We still believe that comprehensive boat decontaminations are the most effective way to limit the spread of invasive species from one place to another,” said Janeway. “Some of the park’s most popular large lakes and rivers have harmful, non-native species in them already. We want to limit their number and prevent spreading them to other places. Much of the park’s interior has not yet been affected by invasive species. It’s up to all of us to keep it that way.

“Invasive species infestations harm the environment, the economy and outdoor recreation,” Janeway said. “Prevention is always better than trying to remove a troublesome invader later on.”

While many other states have imposed comprehensive boat inspections, Lake George and Loon Lake in Chestertown are New York’s only locations where pre-launch inspections are mandatory, he explained. The entire Adirondack Park deserves similar treatment, he said. Decontamination stations are located at some other popular lake and river launches, he said.

“Our abundance of clean, flowing water is one of the reasons our Adirondack Park is a national treasure,” Janeway said. “It’s no easy task to keep it that way. But with the cooperation of boaters and some creativity, we think the state can make this work.”

Boat inspection and decontamination stations would not be needed at every public launch, but instead could be posted at popular launches and on main roadways in and out of the park, Janeway said. There is a newly installed inspection station at the newly renovated Northway rest and Adirondack welcome center near Exit 17. More than 50 boat wash stations and over 100 inspectors have been funded across the Adirondacks. But boats are not now required by law to stop when passing one of these, the requirement is only that “reasonable precautions” be taken.

There are likely to be opportunities for more public/private partnerships, he noted. The Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute and the Nature Conservancy hosted Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program receive state funding and provide much of the labor for current efforts throughout the park. Private lake associations and some local governments also provide funding and would benefit from increased state financial support. It might be possible to set up additional stations at car washes and other locations already equipped with pressure washers and closed-system drains to keep what gets washed off from going back into local waters, he said.

Invasive species can kill-off or out-compete native plants and animals, damaging the web of life in lake and river ecosystems. The loss of a single native plant or animal species affects the fate of others around it, Janeway explained.

For example, a plant called Eurasian watermilfoil has been transported to the Adirondacks on contaminated boats and trailers from other contaminated waters. It grows faster and taller than native aquatic plants and kills them off by shading them from the sun, he explained.

An invasive animal accidentally introduced into Adirondack waters (likely from Lake Ontario) is the spiny waterflea. This crustacean outcompetes the native zooplankton that native fish eat. The waterflea’s hard, barbed shell makes them difficult for native fish to digest, reducing the suitable food supply for native fish.

The Adirondack Council is a privately funded not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park. The Council envisions a Park with clean water and clean air, comprised of core wilderness areas, surrounded by farms and working forests, as well as vibrant communities.

The Adirondack Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action to ensure the legacy of the Adirondack Park is safeguarded for future generations. Adirondack Council members live in all 50 United States.

For more information:

Kevin Chlad, Director of Government Relations, 518-432-1770 ext. 201

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, June 6, 2019


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