By CRISTINE MEIXNER
PISECO -- Adirondack Lakes Alliance had a successful first year, and is looking forward to building on that success in 2016.
The group of lake associations from across the Adirondack Park was created late last year to share information and resources and advocate for lake protections. Its first and most important target is stopping aquatic invasive species.
Thanks to the regional approach the ALA won funding for a pilot program of boat wash stations and launch stewards that was implemented this past summer. The 2015 Region-wide AIS Prevention Pilot Program funded stewards at 14 high priority sites and 11 new boat decontamination stations.
The problem with aquatic invasive species is the damage they do, not just to the existing aquatic ecosystem but also to the economy of areas they infect.
ALA Region D, Fulton and Hamilton counties, met Dec. 9 at the Piseco school, hosted by Piseco Lake Association. In addition to the successful pilot program there was further good news.
In November the State of New York announced a $2 million grant program for projects that will build on the pilot program and expand the fight against aquatic invasive species. The chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors, Bill Farber, is a member of the grant program's advisory group.
ALA Executive Director Ed Griesmer, Loon Lake Park District Association, told the group, "You folks are really out front in terms of addressing the problem and the support you are getting."
He said there are over 3,000 lakes, rivers, and streams in the six-million-acre park, most not infected. But the park is surrounded by infected waters.
That's why most of the boat washes were located on the periphery of the park, and only a few in the interior.
Eric Holmlund of Paul Smith's College's Adirondack Watershed Institute said, "It was not coincidental that the ALA formed and then we suddenly had this incredible [pilot project]."
He said about 11 decontamination stations were run this past summer by Paul Smith's College plus 10 in Lake George and one in Loon Lake, and the college managed over 45 steward locations for a total of 56.
"Money in was about $1.5 million," Holmlund said. "We spent about $1.1 million and are hoping to roll over the balance into 2016."
Holmlund said about 11 percent of the boats inspected this past summer had organisms on them, and 2.8 percent carried aquatic invasive species. "In a sense that's good news, most of the watercraft you don't have to worry about, but that 3 percent is the threat," he said.
Most of the contaminated boats came from Saratoga Lake.
90% LIKE IT
Jamie Parslow of Piseco supervises the Adirondack Watershed Institute's Stewardship Program. "Overall response to the program was very positive, people were glad we are finally doing something," she reported.
The other 10 percent, she said, didn't understand the program can work. "People thinking it is an impossible task and the focus should be on management," she said, "or [the boat washes should be open] 24/7. Once educated some came around."
The program works, she said, and gave an example. "One boat inspected at Indian Lake Marina was covered in zebra mussels and the people drove to the Speculator decontamination station."
Parslow would like the boat washes to be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. She would also like more launch stewards "so all launches are covered so all boats are held to the same standard of cleanliness; this would address the problem of people complaining they don't have to [be inspected] at a different launch."
The AWI pays boat wash staff $13 an hour. Both full- and part-time positions are available.
While the ALA's focus is on prevention, there is also a team of four people that springs into action when a new invasive species infestation is found.
The Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program's Rapid Response Team was created to detect and rapidly eradicate new infestations and control existing infestations when time allows, Project Coordinator Erin Vennie-Vollrath explained.
The team surveyed 38 lakes for early detection this summer, she said. "Seventeen had AIS, 13 with Eurasian water milfoil, and one new infested lake was found (Square Pond). There was no new spiny waterflea or Asian clam found."
APIPP has funding for the team for five years, she said.
Several representatives of local governments were present, including Fred Monroe, the outgoing supervisor of the Town of Chester, Warren County, who has been involved in fighting AIS for a long time.
He says local governments should be concerned about the impact of AIS on shoreline properties, and do whatever it can to help the lake associations in the battle.
"Reduced market values of 15-16 percent would have a significant affect on the tax bases," he said. "It also affects sales tax and occupancy tax revenues. It affects New York state for the same reasons."
Jon Voorhees of Indian Lake is "dismayed at how easily everyone has rolled over for the boaters. They are undeniably the source of the problem. In effect they are being subsidized by everyone else."
Farber replied, "NYS recognizes this is a tourist destination and it is transient boaters [bringing in aquatic invasive species] and it should not fall on the residents of the park alone to fight AIS. I don't think it is any mystery why we won the pilot program."
He wants to enlist boaters' cooperation, rather than charge for boat washes, and educate them to respect the purity of the waters of the Adirondacks."To be effective against AIS we have to involve everyone," he said.