By MICHAEL VIRTANEN
New York’s Legislature has voted to extend Department of Environmental Conservation authority to prevent the spread of invasive aquatic species, though the measure doesn’t contain the statutory provision sought by environmental advocates to make boat washing mandatory in the Adirondacks.
It would extend that DEC authority for one year through June 1, 2020. The Assembly on Thursday followed the state Senate and approved it.
“That’s something we were pushing them very hard to do,” said Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club. “We’re disappointed that it didn’t make it (boat washing) mandatory as it is on Lake George,” he said.
The state’s Lake George Park Commission, citing support from all nine municipalities around that lake, already requires the inspection of all trailered boats before launching them there. If not already cleaned, drained and dry, they are to be decontaminated.
That applies to motorboats, personal watercraft, jet skis and sailboats. It does not apply to canoes, kayaks and other car-top watercraft.
According to the DEC, its state regulations since 2016 have required boat owners take “reasonable precautions” to clean, drain and dry their vessels, trailers and docks before launching them in any public water body.
The department maintains disposal facilities at its boat launches. Since 2014, its regulations have required watercraft not launch or leave those sites with visible plant or animal matter attached.
The prohibition on possession, transport, importation, sale, purchase and introduction of select invasive species carries penalties ranging from a warning for a first violation to a $1,000 fine for a fourth offense.
DEC guidance calls for disinfecting fishing gear.
Shortly before the Memorial Day weekend, state authorities urged that boaters driving north into the Adirondacks use the free boat-washing station at the rest area on I-87 in Queensbury at the southern edge of the Adirondack Park.
The Adirondack Council, which advocates amending the pending bills to mandate boat washing, urged visitors to use the Northway stop.
“We are pleased to see this law will be back on the books as soon as the Governor signs this bill,” said Council Executive Director Willie 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 extend the first law for just one year and to strengthen it further in 2020.”
The bill authorizes continuing the conservation law relating to aquatic invasive, preventing their spread and penalties.
In a memo accompanying the bill, Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee Chairman Steve Englebright wrote that its purpose is to prevent the spread by prohibiting the launch of watercraft or floating docks “without taking reasonable precautions to remove visible plant or animal matter by washing, draining and drying.”
He noted that the state for more than a decade has acknowledged the threat to its environment and economy and has spent millions of dollars trying to rid invaders from its waters. Recreational boating is a key means for spreading the non-native plants including hydrilla, Eurasian water milfoil and European water chestnut, and invasive animals including zebra mussels and the spiny waterflea, he wrote.
According to Englebright, a Long Island Democrat, several states have adopted similar legislation, as have several Adirondack counties and towns. They include Washington, Warren, Tomkins, Essex and Schuyler counties and the towns of Lake Pleasant, Santa Clara, Harrietstown, North Elba, Lake Placid, Franklin and Brighton, resulting in inconsistent and varying rules.