Collaborative State Boat Wash Station Helps Prevent the Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species
Memorial Day Weekend Signals Statewide Start of Boat Steward Deployment
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the latest action in New York's comprehensive efforts to prevent the spread of invasive species with the grand opening of the state's most advanced boat inspection and decontamination station at the recently completed Adirondacks Welcome Center on Interstate 87 in Queensbury, Warren County. The Welcome Center site is the first boat inspection station built into a highway rest stop in New York and is located at a critical entrance to the Adirondack Park that will help prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species. This opening coincides with the yearly deployment of boat stewards and decontamination efforts at public boat launches across the state.
"New York is taking aggressive actions to protect our state's invaluable natural resources, recreational assets and fish and wildlife habitats from invasive predators to ensure our environment remains sustainable, healthy and strong," Governor Cuomo said. "This new state-of-the-art boat inspection station at the Adirondacks Welcome Center will provide visitors with easy access to inspect and wash their boats before entering the state's waterways."
"The Adirondacks is a gem to the state and the nation, and we're constantly focused on improving the experience for visitors," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "The Adirondacks Welcome Center features some of the best amenities, attractions, and products New York has to offer. It will also include a new boat wash station that will provide visitors with the opportunity for boat inspections and promote best practices to prevent the spread of invasive species. We want to ensure our natural resources are protected and that the Adirondacks continue to be a tourism destination for generations."
The Adirondacks Welcome Center boat washing station project was led by the New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation and Transportation with support from local and state government and organizational partners, including The New York Nature Conservancy (TNC), Paul Smith's College Adirondack Watershed Institute (AWI), The FUND for Lake George, Lake George Park Commission and the Lake George Association. In addition, to further safeguard Lake George from the threat of Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) and limit potential entry points to the lake at its boat launches, DEC is actively working with these stakeholders to develop additional actions to help prevent invasive species from entering the lake.
Through the state's Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, DEC and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation continue to work with local governments, lake associations, and AWI to take a frontline defense against invasive species in waterbodies in the Adirondacks. This effort is funded by the state EPF, including $9 million in funding for a five-year management contract with AWI. AWI works to protect clean water, conserve habitats and support the health and well-being of people in the Adirondacks through scientific inquiry, stewardship and real life experiences for students. AWI worked closely with partners to plan, design and build this project. AWI will provide seasonal boat inspectors to staff the station, decontaminate watercraft, educate visitors about the threat of aquatic invasive species and introduce them to DEC's Adirondack Boat Inspection and Decontamination Network. AWI runs 29 other boat decontamination and inspection stations across the region, locations can be found at adkcleanboats.com.
Boat stewards are volunteers or paid members of the community that provide boaters and other water recreationists with important information about how they can reduce the likelihood of spreading AIS. The stewards teach the public how to inspect, clean, drain and treat their watercraft and equipment. Stewards also ask where boaters last launched and can sometimes determine what invasive species are found in the lake or pond visited through the iMapInvasives, New York State's invasive species database. In 2018, boat stewards surveyed more than 300,000 boaters throughout the state.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "New York State has an extensive boat stewardship program that not only helps protect New York's water resources, but also helps raise public awareness of aquatic invasive species. Under Governor Cuomo's leadership and continued support from the State's Environmental Protection Fund to fight invasive species, this year the state will have more than 160 boat stewards located at over 250 locations throughout New York State. We're also actively working with stakeholders to develop a plan to bolster the state's ongoing and comprehensive actions to protect Lake George from the threat of invasive species."
Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, "The Adirondacks Welcome Center is a great place to take a break, learn about all the Adirondacks has to offer and - now, just as the summer season gets underway -- make sure that recreational boats are free from aquatic plants and animals that could harm the region's lakes. Governor Cuomo has made sure that this gateway Welcome Center is world class, and the new boat inspection and decontamination station is a smart, convenient addition that will help preserve the biodiversity of the magnificent Adirondack Park."
Senator Betty Little said, "The Adirondacks is welcome to all with one exception - invasive species. The new Welcome Center's ease of access right off the Northway makes it an ideal place to make sure your boat is clean and ready to use, free of invasives. And my hope is that not only will we see this boat washing station used a lot, it's also going to serve as a reminder to all boaters that preventing the spread of invasives requires everyone's cooperation and diligence. It doesn't take a lot of effort to keep a very costly problem out of our lakes and rivers."
Assembly Member Dan Stec said, "Combating the spread of aquatic invasive species is something I have championed since my days in local government. It is critical to continue to protect the pristine waters of the Adirondack Park and to ensure that our ecosystems remain healthy and strong. Providing this important boat washing station is the necessary mechanism in achieving our goal of educating our boaters and keeping our waters clean of harmful invasives."
AIS are non-native aquatic plants and animals that can cause harm to the environment, economy and human health. Many AIS have been found in the lakes, ponds and rivers of New York and can reproduce and spread at a rapid rate. AIS contribute to the decline of native plants, fish and wildlife, and can negatively impact recreational opportunities and income. One of the main pathways for transfer of AIS between waterbodies is recreational water vehicles and equipment, including boats, canoes, kayaks and jet skis. Aquatic invasive plants and animals such as hydrilla, water chestnut and zebra mussels can easily attach themselves to a water vessel and be transported to an uninvaded body of water and take over.
The new Welcome Center features an Adirondacks Walk of Fame leading to an 8,615 square-foot, LEED certifiable building, which is designed in a classic Adirondack theme and offers parking and restroom facilities. The building has a host of environmentally friendly features, including geothermal water source heat pumps for both heating and cooling the building, LED light fixtures, electric car charging stations, recyclables collection, water efficient landscaping and energy efficient windows and doors.
The Welcome Center contains I LOVE NY interactive kiosks, which highlight regional attractions and tourism destinations. It also features an Adirondacks floor map and an I LOVE NY selfie wall with a decommissioned ski chairlift from Gore Mountain Ski Resort. For family travelers, an outdoor children's play area with a zip line is available, along with a pet comfort area, free Wi-Fi, cell phone charging stations, picnic tables and Adirondack chairs. Food and beverages sourced from the region and other locations in New York are showcased in nine state-of-the-art vending machines.
The new, advanced boat wash station is a dedicated site built into the rest area and features permanent sheds for staff and equipment, a built-in boat washing pit and water collection system and two decontamination units, one of which is electrically operated. Multiple boat stewards will be stationed at the I-87 site throughout the summer. The total cost of the boat wash station was approximately $650,000, paid for primarily under State Development Funds for the Welcome Centers Statewide Program, with $23,000 from the Fund for Lake George and $33,000 from TNC. In addition, DEC used Environmental Protection Funds to support infrastructure development and through a contractual relationship with AWI, is funding operational costs for the 2019 season for six boat stewards for the full season, totaling approximately $90,000.
Dan Kelting, Executive Director of the Paul Smith's College Adirondack Watershed Institute said, "Aquatic invasive species impact our lakes and can result in significant economic losses to landowners, businesses and communities. Recreational boats are the primary way by which invasive species spread across waterways in the Adirondacks. The investment of this high-profile boat inspection and decontamination station by Senator Betty Little, the state of New York, and partners demonstrates the vulnerability of our waterways and the commitment to address this serious environmental threat."
Peg Olsen, Director of the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy said, "We applaud the Governor, Senator Betty Little, and all five partners for their vision and commitment to this project. New York's first-of-its-kind boat wash station is a critical piece in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species and protecting the places where we fish, boat, and swim. We encourage anyone who owns a boat, canoe, or kayak to use this free service while traveling to and from the region."
Eric Siy, Executive Director of The FUND for Lake George said, "This is a historic moment in the fight to protect our Adirondack waters from the fast-spreading scourge of invasive species. The Adirondack Northway is a primary transport route for boats that inadvertently carry invasive species into our region, and this facility will help us find and remove these harmful plants and animals long before they reach our shores. The FUND for Lake George is proud to have been a champion for this project since the very beginning, and even prouder to have made a direct financial investment in bringing it to fruition."
Since 2008, the number of boat steward programs across the state has been steadily increasing. To date, more than 25 programs are active through Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management, contractors and grantees in the Finger Lakes, Western New York, Long Island and recently expanded efforts in the Mohawk-Hudson River area and the Catskill Region. Many organizations are part of this network and provide boat steward programs, such as lake associations, colleges and universities, non-profits, county soil and water conservation districts and municipalities.
State regulation requires water recreationists to take reasonable precautions to prevent the spread of AIS. DEC advises boaters and anglers to inspect and clean boats, trailers, and other fishing and boating equipment for any invasive plants or animals. Be sure to check bunks, rollers, trim tabs and other likely attachment points on boats and trailers. Following a thorough inspection, DEC encourages boaters to follow the CLEAN, DRAIN, and DRY standard.
If boating equipment cannot be completely and thoroughly dried, it must be decontaminated prior to use in another water body. Various decontamination techniques and special techniques to clean boats previously used in zebra mussel infested waters are provided on DEC's website. For a listing of the AIS reported from publicly accessible state waters, visit the DEC boating access directory.