FORT EDWARD -- Washington County supervisors scuttled a proposed law Friday that would have outlawed the transport of aquatic invasive species on local roads and the introduction of the ecology-shifting organisms into local lakes, rivers and streams.
Warren County became the first local government in the state to implement a local ban in 2011, and a similar law is weaving its way through the Essex County Board of Supervisors.
But, in an 8-8 vote, the Washington County Board of Supervisors killed the law amid concerns of reduced access to outdoor enthusiasts.
Argyle Supervisor Bob Henke, a retired state Department of Environmental Conservation officer, led the charge against the law drafted by Dresden Supervisor Bob Banks and Putnam Supervisor John LaPointe, who represent towns with Lake George shoreline.
Henke argued that the state’s wildlife management hinges on anglers and hunters taking game for analysis, and limiting access to Washington County’s water bodies could have "unintended consequences."
"Anything we do will effect wildlife management," Henke said, adding that he’s not opposed to such a law, but believes it needs substantially further study before enactment. "We need an anthropologist looking into it. We’re trying to change culture."
A population-based weighted voting system dominates the floor every month at the full county board, unlike the "one-man, one-vote" system in the board’s various committees.
The Washington County version, which would have carried fines up to $1,000 and as much as 15 days in jail, failed by a 2083-2011 vote, even with the support of Kingsbury Supervisor Jim Lindsay, who wields 780 votes on his own. Hartford Supervisor Dana Haff was absent.
The local laws in the three counties ringing Lake George are intended to provide local law enforcement tools to crack down on local boaters who often carry invasive species from lake to lake stuck to their vessel’s hull or trailer.
A visibly frustrated Banks said he was "disappointed" with his peers.
"The ones that voted ‘no’ don’t have a clue what they were voting for," LaPointe said following the meeting. "If Lake George becomes a wasteland, there goes 25 percent of our tax base."
Regional efforts to crack down on aquatic invasives have ramped up over the last three years following the discovery of the nutrient-pumping Asian clam in Lake George. More than $1 million has been spent by state and local agencies attempting to eradicate the mollusk, but it’s been found in new locations in the lake each of the last two summers.
Greenwich Supervisor Sara Idleman, Washington County’s most liberal supervisor, joined Henke in opposition to Banks’ legislation.
"I think we really need to look at this more thoroughly," Idleman said. "I’m not against the concept."
Henke’s criticism of the lack of study of the impacts the law would have swayed Idleman and six other supervisors.
Henke added that he’s not necessarily opposed to the law, but only after it’s wide-ranging potential impacts have been thoroughly analyzed.
The law’s defeat in the most populist of the three counties with a direct stake in Lake George comes amid talks between the Lake George Park Commission and DEC over the Park Commission’s proposed mandatory inspection program for transient boats coming into the lake.
Chester officials earlier this week approved the purchase of a boat-washing station for its town launch at Loon Lake, where a voluntary decontamination program will be instituted this summer. At least four wash stations will be located around Lake George this summer for a locally funded program, too.
The region-wide emphasis on stopping the viral trek of invasives from lake to lake has taken the focus off other issues allowing the species to thrive, especially nutrient loading, which is often caused by leaky septic systems or increased runoff, Henke said.
It was unclear Friday if Banks intended to try to salvage the law by reintroducing it in committee.
"It will come up again," LaPointe said.