By TIM ROWLAND
Two boat launches on northern Lake George that had been accessible to boaters around the clock will now be locked down when invasive-species inspectors are not present, the Department of Environmental Conservation has announced.
The DEC said the after-hours lockdown is a pilot project that will be re-evaluated after the boating season ends. Boaters who are still on the lake after the gates have been closed will have access to a call box that will connect them with DEC emergency dispatch for instructions on opening the gate.
The boat launches are located at Mossy Point on the lake’s northeastern shore near Ticonderoga, and Rogers Rock Campground on the western shore between Ticonderoga and Hague.
While southern launches had been locked at night, the state’s northern boat launches had not. Considering the proximity of the northern launches to Lake Champlain—which is open to international waters and has a large number of nonnative species—Lake George advocates feared they amounted to a weak link in the lake’s defenses.
At the same time, the DEC was reluctant to penalize anglers who wanted to be out on the water in the evening or early morning hours. “DEC and the Lake George Park Commission are seeking to balance protecting the lake from aquatic invasive species and providing public access for boating,” DEC Regional Director Bob Stegemann said in a prepared statement. “The information we gather during the pilot program will inform a more permanent program for next year’s boating season and support the state’s ongoing efforts to protect Lake George from invasive pests.”
The Fund for Lake George, which paid for the call boxes, said the move is important. “DEC’s decision to close the gates at these launches after hours will help slam the door on the next potential invader,” Eric Siy, executive director of the Fund, said in a written statement. “Currently the launches remain open to boaters after the state’s mandatory boat inspection stations close for the evening. By closing the gates, DEC is closing a critical gap in the boat inspection program and preventing uninspected and potentially contaminated boats from entering the lake.”
Pat Dowd, director of communications for the Lake George Association, said the risk of invasives presented by the boat launches was low, and that some boaters were surprised and not entirely pleased when they became an issue earlier this year. “They put their boat on a trailer and go from the launch to their house,” he said. “They are no risk to the lake at all.”
Still, Dowd said the bottom line is water quality, so precautions are understandable, as long as there is a way for after-hours boaters to get off the lake.
Boat launch stewards will continue to staff the launches during the day, and will lock the gates when they leave. Their hours will be from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Sept. 6 through Sept. 20; from 6 a.m. through 7 p.m. from the 21st through Oct. 11; and from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 12 through the end of the month.
“This is a beautiful time of the year to be on Lake George,” Dowd said.