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Speakers at hearing back Lake George boat inspection program

Thursday, October 10, 2013
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— The public is in favor of plans to impose mandatory boat inspections on Lake George to keep aquatic invasive species out, to judge by comments at a public hearing Thursday.

Everyone who spoke at an afternoon hearing at the Roaring Brook Ranch resort was in favor, though some think the Lake George Park Commission’s draft rules could be stronger.

“Just one boat can ruin our lake for the entire future,” Lake George Mayor Robert Blais told the Lake George Park Commission.

He was among a half-dozen speakers at the hearing, which about 30 people attended. Another hearing was held Thursday night in Ticonderoga, as the commission works to have an inspection system ready by next spring.

Blais and other elected officials from around the lake basin are members of the S.A.V.E. Lake George Partnership, which supports a strong system. The partnership is prepared to raise half of the $650,000 to $700,000 estimated annual cost of an inspection program.

“All of us feel these rules are important at this critical time for our basin,” Blais said.

The inspections apply only to trailered boats, since they are most likely to have been in other lakes and picked up exotic invaders that could degrade Lake George.

There’s been a voluntary inspection and decontamination system at some boat launches since 2012.

“This is the core of the whole program. Bring your boat to Lake George, but bring it cleaned, drained and dry,” said commission Executive Director Dave Wick.

Boats that fail an inspection would have to be decontaminated by a hot-water wash before launching.

The park commission voted in July to require inspections; the hearings were on draft regulations to implement the policy. If the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Gov. Andrew Cuomo sign off, Lake George would become the first major lake in the eastern United States to require inspections.

The main concern expressed at the hearings was that some boaters — pre-dawn fishermen, in particular — would still launch into the lake without getting their vessels inspected.

“Lake George needs mandatory boat inspections with no loopholes,” said Rosemary Pusatori of Cleverdale.

In a written statement, the S.A.V.E. coalition also noted that there are no fines or penalties proposed, and that private and public launches would be subject to different standards.

“It needs to go further,” said Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky, who is also part of the coalition.

The commission and partner organizations are already spending millions of dollars to fight invasive species, including Eurasian milfoil, Asian clams and zebra mussels. They are looking to prevent the introduction of others found elsewhere in the Northeast, such as the quagga mussel and hydrilla plant.

There’s unanimity on the need to keep waterborne invasive species out of the 32-mile-long lake, whose purity and scenic beauty are at the heart of the regional economy.

The Lake George Association, a private nonprofit that administers the voluntary inspection program, is willing to partner with the commission on the mandatory inspections, said its executive director, Walt Lender.

“It is very important to have this program in place for the next boating season,” he said.

Under a draft plan, five inspection stations would be established, in Lake George, Bolton, Hague, Ticonderoga and Queensbury. Boats would be inspected and a tag attached if they pass. Hot-water decontamination would be available for boats that don’t.

Wick said a public comment period will last through Oct. 18. A vote on final regulations could come in November. “We’re hoping to have a decision on the plan by the end of the year and have it up and running in 2014, but we’re not quite there yet,” he said.

About 16,000 boats are registered annually to use the lake.

 
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