By Gwendolyn Craig
The coronavirus pandemic is already spurring some changes at boat inspection stations in the Adirondacks, but boaters should note they remain responsible for keeping their vessels cleaned, drained and dried before launch.
The measures help keep boats from spreading aquatic invasive species, which can choke water bodies, threaten native species and cost taxpayers significant funding to mitigate.
The biggest change is on Lake George, which has had mandatory boat inspections since 2014.
The Lake George Park Commission announced it is pushing back its inspection program from May 1 to June 1 “to protect the health and safety of the boating public and the commission’s boat inspection staff,” according to a news release. Boaters will still be allowed to launch in Lake George, but they should be more vigilant about their boats’ cleanliness.
“The Commission must balance the risk of new introductions of aquatic invasive species versus the health and safety of the public and our staff,” said Chairman Bruce Young, in a news release.
Trailered boats still must be registered with the park commission, and they still must be clean before entering the lake. While the mandatory inspections will be delayed, commission staff will visit launches to make sure boaters are complying with the law.
Young noted that the park commission reviewed data of its inspection program and found the month of May has a lower risk of boaters potentially introducing invasive species than during the summer months.
The Adirondack Watershed Institute, a part of Paul Smith’s College, has more than two dozen boat inspection stations at water bodies across the Adirondack Park. While these are not mandatory, state Department of Environmental Conservation regulations require boats launching or leaving a DEC launch to be drained and cleaned. That includes removing any visible plant and animal material.
“DEC and AWI will continue to monitor the COVID-19 response and determine what effects it will have on the program,” the DEC said in a statement to Adirondack Explorer. “Boat stewards can still perform their duties while following social distancing guidelines. Boat inspections lend themselves to social distancing and stewards will be trained in practices to achieve this.”
The DEC said the current plan is for the boat stations to open on Memorial Day Weekend. Dan Kelting, executive director of the institute, said that could change.
“Boat wash stations may be opening at a later date, because we currently aren’t allowed to begin setting up the stations, given the closure of Paul Smith’s College campus under the governor’s guidelines for non-essential staff,” Kelting said.
Meanwhile staff are still working on training content for this summer’s boat inspectors, but it will be online. Normally, AWI holds a multi-day training session at the Paul Smith’s campus.
“We plan on hosting small groups for additional hands-on training as soon as we are able to,” Kelting added in an email. “All of this is subject to change as the COVID-19 pandemic develops. AWI is committed to adapting our work to ensure we are still able to provide quality protection of our lakes the summer!”
For more information on the Lake George Park Commission’s boat inspection program, go to https://lgpc.ny.gov/. For more information on the Adirondack Watershed Institute’s program, go to https://www.adkwatershed.org/stewardship/watershed-stewardship.