Seven sites have been chosen for the state’s Adirondack-wide Aquatic Invasive Species Spread Prevention Pilot Program, which is coming together just a couple months after funding was finalized.
Six more are pending for the voluntary program that will provide boat inspection and decontamination stations around the park.
The target date for launching the program was Memorial Day weekend, but it may take longer for some to open.
“We completed our last round of site visits last week,” said Brendan Quirion, program coordinator for the state-funded Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, a lead coordinator on the Adirondack-wide pilot program being run by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
In March, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced, 53 entities signed an agreement to develop a program to stem the spread of aquatic invasive species throughout the Adirondack Park.
Nine stations will be funded out of $1 million set aside in the Environmental Protection Fund. The rest, such as the Schroon Lake station, are being funded from other sources, but will be monitored as part of the pilot program.
“Is it better to have the station at the launch or before the launch? We plan to be able to figure that out,” said East Shore Schroon Lake Association President Jane Smith , who also is associate director of the Adirondack Lakes Alliance. “It’s not a mandatory program ... We want to show people we’re not going to inconvenience them, but we are serious abut protecting our waterways.”
Some of the sites will be located near boat launches — others on roadways and state Department of Transportation right of ways to intercept boater traffic.
“Being that this year is a pilot program, we wanted to make sure we tested multiple approaches to make sure the program is effective,” Quirion said.
The nine EPF-funded stations will have different equipment — at $5,000 each — than Schroon and Loon lakes and Lake George and will not have the capability to contain and recycle the water used. As a result, some of the sites will need site work — like building infiltration basins — that will cost thousands of dollars.
The less expensive equipment purchase kept it under a $50,000 threshold for state agency equipment purchases, set by the state Comptroller’s Office, which allowed the program to move ahead faster.
A Freedom of Information Law request to the state from The Post-Star for the breakdown on how the $1 million is being spent, a framework agreement for the program and the contract with the Adirondack Watershed Institute of Paul Smith’s College, which is training and taking care of staffing, was denied last month because “disclosure would impair a present or imminent contract award” and the contract “is currently going through the approval process.”
DEC spokesman Tom Mailey said Monday the contract is not yet finalized, but there may be more information available later this week.
“I’m encouraged the governor is providing $1 million (in the Environmental Protect Fund) for the Adirondack-wide program and the DEC is treating it with urgency. Those are two things I wouldn’t have predicted last fall,” said Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe.
Monroe and Fund for Lake George Executive Director Eric Siy and various other stakeholders had been advocating for adoption of an Adirondacks program that called for about 20 stations around the park at a cost of about $500,000.
In addition to the nine boat-washing stations, there will be 14 steward locations. Stewards are trained to look for and remove visible invasives and collect data.
“There’s a big emphasis on boat wash stewards, but it’s because of the way the state has to operate and how it has to get money for approval on equipment,” Monroe said.
The Adirondack Park is currently free of some of the invasives wreaking havoc in other parts of the state — such as hydrilla and quagga mussels. The Lake George Association steward program from 2008 to 2013 reported removing quagga mussels from boats before they got into the lake, but even with stewards, spiny water flea (2012) and Asian clam (2010) were found in the lake.
“As we learned in Lake George, we need an inclusive, transparent process that leads us to a program that gives us the best fighting chance of protecting our now vulnerable waters,” Siy said.
Monroe said he and others have been working on a framework agreement for 2016 that might be out this week. Some want a steering committee to help the state decide how to use money for the program. Others thought that was too strong and an “advisory committee” would do, Monroe said.