DEC, Paul Smith College partner to protect Adirondacks against aquatic invasive species

With more than 2,300 lakes and ponds, 1,500 miles of rivers, and 30,000 miles of brooks and streams, the Adirondack region is particularly vulnerable to the introduction of AIS. Once established, AIS such as zebra mussels can spread rapidly through connecting waterways or by "hitchhiking" on the propellers, trailers, rudders, and motors of recreational boaters' and anglers' vessels.

New York state is expanding its partnership with Paul Smith College’s Adirondack Watershed Institute Stewardship Program to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) throughout the Adirondack’s waterways through the strategic placement of boat stewards and decontamination stations, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced.

With more than 2,300 lakes and ponds, 1,500 miles of rivers, and 30,000 miles of brooks and streams, the Adirondack region is particularly vulnerable to the introduction of AIS. Once established, AIS such as zebra mussels and Eurasian water milfoil can spread rapidly through connecting waterways or by “hitchhiking” on the propellers, trailers, rudders, and motors of recreational boaters’ and anglers’ vessels.

The partnership will place 53 boat stewards and decontamination operators at 28 sites throughout the Adirondacks. The stewards, hired and trained by Paul Smiths College, will be on the lookout for AIS and will educate arriving boaters on the signs of possible invasive threats on watercraft and trailers. Using high pressure, hot water decontamination units, stewards will also clean boats that have not been cleaned and drained properly, especially those last used in waters with high risk for AIS.

The 2017 program will cost $1.4 million and is funded through the State’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF).

Sites will have steward coverage throughout the peak recreational boating season from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Stewards will be present Thursday through Monday, including holidays (Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day) for eight peak usage hours per day.

The program will complement existing AIS-prevention initiatives already underway, including the Adirondack Park Aquatic Invasive Species Spread Prevention Pilot Program and the New York Aquatic Invasive Species Spread Prevention Grant Program, which funds 11 boat steward and decontamination projects in the Adirondacks.

This partnership shows Governor Cuomo’s commitment to implementing the recommendations of the recently updated New York Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan (AISMP). Expanding boat steward programs and ensuring consistency of steward program delivery statewide is among the AISMP’s top 10 priority actions. Strategically placed boat stewards help prevent the spread of AIS by delivering AIS spread prevention education and outreach, conducting courtesy boat and trailer inspections, and showing boaters how to inspect and remove plants and organisms from their boats, trailers, and other equipment.

Governor Cuomo increased funding for invasive species control to $12 million from the EPF in the 2017-18 State Budget, including a $2 million grant program for communities and groups across New York. This funding will provide critical support for prevention and eradication activities through programs like the Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM) that protect against threats to New York’s biodiversity, economy, and human health.

Invasive species are detrimental because of their ability to reproduce quickly, outcompete native species, and adapt to new environments. Because invasive species did not evolve with the other species in their new location, they often do not have natural predators and diseases that would normally control their population within their native habitat. Economists estimate that invasive species cost the United States more than $120 billion in damages every year.

DEC advises boaters and anglers to check boats, trailers and other fishing and boating equipment for any plants or animals that may be clinging to it. Be sure to check bunks, rollers, trim tabs, and other likely attachment points on boats and trailers. Following a thorough inspection, DEC encourages boaters to follow the CLEAN, DRAIN, and DRY standard:

  1. CLEAN boats, trailers, and equipment of any debris and dispose of it in an upland area or receptacle provided for this purpose.
  2. DRAIN the boat completely, including bilge areas, live wells, and bait wells. Water ski and wake board boat operators should be sure to drain all ballast tanks. Many aquatic invasive species can survive in as little as a drop of water, so it is imperative that all water is removed.
  3. DRY all equipment for at least five days before using it in another water body. Longer drying times may be required for difficult to dry equipment or during damp or cool periods. Recommended drying times for various seasons (offsite link) can be found at 100th Meridian Initiative website. Drying is the simplest and most effective way to ensure equipment does not transport plants or animals.

For more information on the CLEAN, DRAIN, and DRY approach please view the following videohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBDgs8mBGy4&t=192s.

— New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

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