LAKE GEORGE -- The Lake George Park Commission unanimously approved on Tuesday mandatory boat inspection regulations for Lake George, the final approval needed to get the program, designed to stop the march of invasive species into the lake, in place for the upcoming boating season.
Starting May 15, eight boat-washing stations will be placed at six boat launch sites around Lake George, and all trailered boats will be inspected, and if necessary decontaminated, prior to launching in “The Queen of American Lakes.”
“The key to solving the problem is closing the doors,” said Eric Siy, executive director of the Fund for Lake George, who called it a “historic” day.
The regulations call for placing inspectors at six key sites around Lake George, generally from sun-up to sundown during the boating season, to prevent invasive species from entering the lake.
The mandatory inspection program is planned to run this year from May 15 to Dec. 1.
The program pushes a mantra of “clean, drained, dry,” and will have inspectors at the launch points around the lake checking boats entering Lake George for any invasive species.
If any evidence is found on boats or trailers, the boaters will be required to have their boat decontaminated at a boat-washing station to remove the material before they can launch.
At the southern end, one boat inspection and boat-washing station is planned for Transfer Road in Lake George, near the Lake George transfer station site by Northway Exit 21, though officials are considering potential alternate sites in the southern basin near the Lake George Association property and at Million Dollar Beach.
Norowal Marina in Bolton and the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Mossy Point launch will each get two boat-washing stations because of how busy both of those launch locations are during the summer months.
One wash station will be at Rogers Rock, also a state-owned launch, Huletts Landing Marina, and near the intersection of Bay Road and Route 9L in Queensbury, close to Dunham’s Bay. There will also be one back-up boat-washing station, for a total of nine.
The Park Commission has four boat-washing stations now, and Warren County recently was awarded a roughly $482,000 state grant to fund up to five more stations for the program.
Officials are looking at purchasing electric-powered stations in the future for some of the sites that may be near residential areas, because they’re quieter, said Park Commission Executive Director Dave Wick.
An estimated 45 people will need to be hired to implement the program this season. Staffing levels will ramp up to the peak boating season in the summer and will then ramp back down through the fall. The people the Park Commission hire will go through training before the May 15 start date.
The state has dedicated $350,000 to implementation of the effort, with a local match coming from lakeside municipalities and environmental nonprofit organizations, which is expected to cover the staffing cost.
Funding has been committed for the first two years of the program, but is unknown beyond that, Wick said.
Generally, inspectors will work from sunrise to sunset during the boating season, with varying hours depending on the location. At Norowal Marina, for instance, as a private marina, the inspection and boat-washing station located there will be open when the marina is open. At the DEC-owned launches, the plan is to staff those with inspectors from 6 a.m. to 8 or 9 p.m., with the potential to open as early as 3 a.m. at the height of the season to accommodate anglers, Wick said.
The hours of operation have been a point of debate throughout the process, with local leaders citing the “after-hours loophole,” or the concern that boats containing invasive species would be launched during the night or early morning when inspectors weren’t in place.
“It’s a must-do. We have to have it. We still don’t know enough about who is launching onto the lake and when, particularly during those after-hours periods,” Siy said. “If we don’t do that, we’d continue to leave the door open to that next invasive getting in.”
The local S.A.V.E. Lake George Partnership, chaired by Lake George Mayor Robert Blais, announced late last year it would commit thousands of dollars to fund “night monitors,” or people who would staff the launch sites for the times during the boating season when inspectors aren’t working, to provide around-the-clock coverage at the key launch sites.
That’s still the intention of the S.A.V.E. partnership, but some details still must be worked out, Blais said Tuesday.
The monitors won’t have the same qualifications and training as the inspectors hired by the Park Commission, but will be able to check whether the boat already has an inspection seal, or inform the boaters they need to go through the inspection process before launching. The main goal of the monitors is to compile data about launches to determine what level of staffing is necessary moving forward in future years.
“We will not get a second chance to get this right,” Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover said.
Before the program launches, the commission will begin to meet with the owners of the various private launches around the lake. They’ll be collecting boat registration information from the owners of driveway launches, boat launches owned by homeowners associations around the lake and launches at motels and marinas, to get those launch owners informed of their obligations under the program.
There’s also a public outreach effort that will be undertaken to make people aware of the program, particularly those who are from out of the local area who may be visiting Lake George during the summer.
Information technology staff is currently developing a website solely for the Lake George mandatory boat-washing and inspection program, which will feature an interactive map of the sites around the lake. The lakegeorgeboatinspections.com website is expected to launch in the spring, Wick said.
“We want to make sure as many people know as possible,” Wick said.