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More Boats Coming to Lake George ‘Clean, Drained, Dry’

More Boats Coming to Lake George ‘Clean, Drained, Dry’ February 26, 2023
Chart of total number of vessels decontaminated per year.
Total number of vessels decontaminated per year. Courtesy LGPC.

More boats were inspected for aquatic invasive species by the Lake George Park Commission in 2022 than in any year but one since 2016, but fewer boats required decontamination.

According to the Lake George Park Commission’s analysis of the 2022 Lake George Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program, released January 12, 2023, only 9.1% of the boats trailered to Lake George last year failed to meet the “clean, drained and dry” standard required to launch.

“This is the lowest percentage of decontaminations required in any year since the program began in 2014,” the Park Commission reported.

“This is encouraging, as boaters seem to be taking more care in ensuring that their vessels are clean prior to arriving in Lake George to launch,” the Commission’s statement continued.

Dave Wick, the Lake George Park Commission’s executive director, said the Commission attributed the increase in the number of boats arriving at Lake George prepared to launch at least in part to the growth in public awareness about invasive species and their threats to ecosystems and water quality.

“The Commission strives to educate boaters about the importance of bringing clean vessels to Lake George, and the goal is to reduce the number of decontaminations required by having people take steps on their own to ensure they are clean, drained, dry, and ready to be launched.

Last summer, the Park Commission’s mandatory inspection program saw 36, 949 boats at one or more of its six inspection stations, roughly one thousand more than in 2021 and only slightly fewer than were seen in 2020, one the lake’s busiest years ever.

131 boats were found to be transporting invasive species; of those, 25 were carrying two or more species.

Trailered motorboats are the primary vectors for the spread of aquatic invasive species and nearly 500,000 boats are registered in New York State alone.

Many of those trailered to Lake George and the Adirondacks carry as many as 200 invasive species, including Hydrilla and Quagga mussels.

This year, inspectors discovered Quagga mussels on five boats, the most ever.

Had technicians failed to inspect and decontaminate the boat, another ecosystem-altering invasive species might have established itself in Lake George.

“The discovery of the Quagga mussels is significant because we don’t have them in Lake George and we certainly do not want them, so we’re pleased that we were able to intercept them,” said Justin Luyk, who supervises and manages the Lake George Park Commission’s boat inspection program.

The invasive species found were primarily Eurasian watermilfoil, Zebra mussels and Water Chestnut, and those boats were cleaned prior to their launch into the lake. Other very concerning invasives found during the inspections this year include Quagga Mussels which could massively alter the lake’s ecology if introduced and established.

In addition to intercepting Quagga mussels, inspectors found Eurasian Milfoil on 59 boats, Zebra Mussels on 37 and Water Chestnut on 39 boats.

Hydrilla, which is considered an immediate threat to Lake George, was not found on any boats this year.

According to Luyk, several changes to the inspection program were made in 2022.

Among them: closing the Dunham’s Bay station on weekdays, discontinuing operations at Huletts Landing and opening a new inspection station on Lake Champlain’s South Bay, giving the Lake George Park Commission the ability to inspect boats headed to either Lake George or Lake Champlain.

According to Luyk, Lake Champlain is known to currently host 51 invasive species.

“Operating there gives us the opportunity to interact with boaters who may not be reached on Lake George and enable us to educate them about the importance of abiding by the ‘clean, drained and dry’ standard and avoid transporting invasives from Lake Champlain to neighboring waterbodies,” said Luyk.

Luyk said the inspectors at the South Bay station interacted with 3,149 boaters this year, those arriving at as well as those leaving Lake Champlain.

A total of 87 decontaminations were conducted at the South Bay site, which were 8.9% of all decontaminations. Approximately 10% of the boats inspected at South Bay were headed for Lake George.

New York State appropriated $400,000 in its 2022-23 budget to fund this year’s inspection program.

For FY 2021-2022, $350,000 in state funds supported the inspection program.

Dave Wick, the Lake George Park Commission’s executive director, said in 2022 that the $50,000 increase for that year’s program reflected the costs of starting inspections earlier and ending them later, a change in regulations adopted in 2021. In 2022, inspection stations closed on December 15. 

The total cost of the 2022 inspection program was $711,000, of which Warren County contributed $100,000; Lake George Village, Town of Lake George, Bolton and Queensbury, $37,000 each, The Lake George Association provided $79,000 on support. 

According to the Lake George Association, Lake George is currently infested with six known aquatic invasive species: two aquatic plants, Eurasian watermilfoil and curly-leaf pondweed; three mollusks: Zebra mussel, Asian clam, and Chinese mystery snail; and one crustacean, Spiny water flea.

Left unchecked, invasive species can degrade the lake’s water quality, impede recreational activities, and outcompete native plants and animals, impacting property values and the region’s lake-based tourism economy, the LGA stated.

The Lake George Park Commission began requiring boats to be clean, drained and dry before launching in Lake George in 2014.

Since then, no new invasive species have established themselves in Lake George, thanks largely to the Commission’s mandatory inspection program.

“This is perhaps the most profound statement that can be made regarding this landmark program,” said Dave Wick.

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