Newly proposed state Department of Environmental Conservation regulations that aim to prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species at DEC boat launches would affect local waterways.
DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said the state is accepting public comments on the changes through Feb. 24.
The proposed regulatory changes require boaters to remove all visible plants and animals from boats, trailers and associated equipment, and to drain boats before launching at or leaving a DEC boat launch and waterway access.
Violators, if caught, could face a $250 fine.
In Fulton County, the DEC has boat launches on Caroga Lake, the Great Sacandaga Lake in Broadalbin, Northville and Northampton and West Lake.
In Montgomery County, the DEC has boat launches on the Mohawk River in Amsterdam, Canajoharie, Fort Plain, Nelliston, Schoharie Crossing, Burtonville and Glen.
The DEC has numerous boat launches in Hamilton County. Among them are one on the Sacandaga Lake in Speculator and three on Piseco Lake.
The DEC says some examples of invasive species are Eurasian watermilfoil, water chestnut, fishhook water fleas and zebra mussels. They are species from other parts of the world that have been accidentally introduced and have flourished in New York state, often at the expense of native species.
Add to this list the sea lamprey, white perch, fanwort, yellow perch and a host of common baitfish species that are native to the United States and, in some cases, New York state, but have since spread to water in which they were not originally found.
These plants and animals are all considered invasive species and, when they become problems, are termed nuisance invasive species.
"I've heard about it," Caroga Supervisor Ralph Ottuso said of the proposed DEC changes. "We've already got it in progress in Caroga and Canada lakes."
Ottuso said stewards have policed the boats for invasive species, such as mussels, at Canada Lake the past four or five years.
"It's a great idea because what it's doing is protecting our lakes for future years," he said.
The Adirondack Council - the largest citizen environmental group in New York state working in the Adirondack Park - has taken notice of the aquatic invasive species issue. The council's mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park.
"This is one of our priorities for legislative action in 2014," said Adirondack Council Director of Communications John Sheehan. "We feel the state needs to do something in the way we deal with aquatic invasive species."
Sheehan said more inspections of boats need to be required, and one of the first places that has begun is Loon Lake in Warren County.
"There has been some good programs developed by lake associations," he added.
Sheehan said it is difficult to try to eradicate an invasive species, such as the spiny water flea that has "taken hold" of the Great Sacandaga Lake.
The invasive spiny water flea, if left unchecked in the Great Sacandaga Lake's waters, has the potential to starve the lake's native species, according to researchers and officials trying to lessen its effects.
The flea, which is a form of crustacean called a zooplankton and feeds on other, smaller zooplankton, was first discovered in the Great Sacandaga Lake in October 2008. DEC has said the flea, native to Eurasia, was probably brought over from the Great Lakes by boaters who did not realize the crustaceans were clinging to their boats or fishing lines. Spiny water fleas have the potential to congregate on certain parts of a boat, which is how they travel to non-native waters. Once they arrive in such territory, they quickly lay eggs, which sometimes lay dormant for years and therefore are difficult to track.
DEC wants anglers and boaters to be aware of the part they may play in the spread of invasive species in New York state and take action to help stem their spread.
The full text of the proposed regulation can be found on DEC's website at www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/propregulations.
"These proposed regulatory changes are the latest in a series of actions DEC has taken over the past few years to combat the spread of harmful invasive species, including the emerald ash borer," Martens stated in a news release. "Cooperation and assistance from the public is essential in order for these efforts to succeed. Boats, trailers and the equipment can spread aquatic invasive species from waterbody to waterbody and significantly harm recreational and commercial use of a waterbody while having a detrimental effect on native fish, wildlife and plants. This regulation is an important component of DEC's efforts to help ensure AIS-free waters remain free and additional AIS are not introduced to other waters."
Boaters are advised to carefully check their boats, trailers and equipment for any plant or animal material that may be clinging to it and remove it if found. Nuisance Invasive Species Disposal Stations are provided at many DEC boat launches for this purpose. The boat should also be completely drained, including live wells, bait wells and bilge tanks, and dried before it is used in another waterbody.
Boats, trailers, waders and other fishing and boating equipment can spread aquatic invasive species from waterbody to waterbody unless properly cleaned, dried or disinfected after use. Although some invasive species such as water milfoil are readily visible to the human eye, many others are too small to be noticed. To avoid spreading invasive species, people can follow the guidelines in the following steps: check, clean, drain, dry and disinfect, the DEC?says.
DEC Region 5 spokesman David Winchell in Raybrook referred questions about invasive species to the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, or APIPP, based in Keene Valley, Essex County. That group researches whether invasive species are a problem in lakes in the park. The APIPP is a cooperative effort initiated in 1998 among citizens and organizations of the Adirondacks. An APIPP expert was unavailable for comment last week.
But the APIPP website indicated research was done in recent years on nine bodies of water in Fulton County - Canada, East Caroga, Fourth, Green, Holmes, Peck, West Caroga and West lakes; and Mayfield Pond. Research found the Eurasian watermilfoil to be the main invasive species found, especially at East Caroga Lake, Mayfield Pond and West Caroga Lake.
Eurasian watermilfoil is a submersed plant that grows in a variety of still and flowing fresh- water bodies that can can infest an entire lake quickly, providing a poor habitat and a low-quality food source.
Among the invasive species found in Hamilton County is the variable-leaf milfoil found at Raquette Lake in Arietta.
Variable-leaf milfoil is submersed, rooted, perennial, aquatic plant. It crowds out native plants and reduces habitat quality for fish, waterfowl and other wildlife.
Comments on the proposed regulations can be sent via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by postal mail to Edward Woltmann, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Bureau of Fisheries, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4753.
According to the DEC website, there are two main prohibitions with the proposed invasive species regulations:
No one shall launch or attempt to launch a watercraft from a state boat-launching site, a fishing access site or any other site from which a watercraft may be launched, or leave from these sites with any plant or animal, or parts thereof, visible to the human eye, in, on or attached to any part of the watercraft, equipment or gear, or the trailer, unless a written permit is obtained from the department.
No one shall launch or attempt to launch a watercraft from a state boat launching site, a fishing access site or any other site from which a watercraft may be launched, or leave from these sites without draining the watercraft, unless a written permit is obtained from the department.
The most effective method to ensure no invasive species or fish diseases are transported to a new body of water is to dry the boating and fishing equipment, DEC says. The key is to make certain that equipment is dry before using it in a new water body. Drying times vary significantly depending upon the type of equipment, air temperature and relative humidity.
The state says the proposed regulations will strengthen DEC's ability to control the spread of aquatic invasive species associated with the use of watercraft, trailers and associated equipment at the boating and fishing access facilities it administers. Boaters are currently asked to voluntarily comply with recommended advice on how to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species as provided in various DEC publications and posted at the 390 boat launch facilities that DEC administers.
The proposed regulations would allow DEC law enforcement staff to ticket any user of DEC boat launch facilities that do not drain a watercraft and remove any visible plants and animals attached to it, the trailer or associated equipment before launching at or leaving the site.
The penalty for violating this regulation is imprisonment for no more than 15 days, or a fine of no more than $250, or both fine and imprisonment.
The proposed regulations would allow boaters keeping boats in zebra or quagga mussel-infested waters to obtain a free permit from DEC allowing them to depart from a launch site without removing all visible material. Such a permit would allow boaters to take their boat to a storage location or an off-site boat washing station, the DEC?says.
According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, examples of invasive species include:
Fishhook water fleas