Seventeen percent of boats inspected around Lake George in 2017 required decontamination to remove aquatic invasive species — a slight decrease from the previous year.
A total of 1,869 boats required cleaning, according to a report released Tuesday by the Lake George Park Commission. This is slightly less than the 1,920 vessels cleaned in 2016, which equaled 18 percent of inspected vessels requiring decontamination.
A total of 6,684 boats have been decontaminated since the program began in 2014.
The most prevalent invasive species that was found was Eurasian milfoil, which was on 70 boats. That is about the same as the 69 boats in 2016.
The number of boats with zebra mussels more than doubled, from 11 to 29, and those with curly leaf pondweed were trimmed by more than two-thirds, from 17 to 5.
The inspection program had 31,168 contacts with boaters in 2017 — up slightly from the 31,128 the prevous year. Around 25 percent of boats already had a boat inspection seal. About one-third of those — 10,801 trailered boats — did not have a vessel inspection control seal, which required a full inspection.
In all, 244 vessels arrived at an inspection station with visible plant or animal matter attached to the vessel or the trailer, compared with 127 in 2016, according to the report. There were 110 visible aquatic invasive species found on boats, which is about 0.38 percent of the boats arriving in Lake George.
The program was in operation from May 1 through Oct. 31 at seven regional inspection stations.
The inspection program is working well and went very smoothly, according to David Wick, executive director of the Lake George Park Commission.
“We’re still seeing a lot of boaters coming to Lake George. The majority of them are meeting the ‘cleaned, drained and dry’ standard, which is great,” he said.
The boats that have invasive species are decontaminated at no charge to the owner, Wick added.
Wick said the number of different types of invasive species found tends to fluctuate, but it is a good indicator of the types of invasives being found throughout the Northeast.
He attributed the increase in zebra mussels to the large number of boats coming from Saratoga Lake. The Saratoga Lake Association and the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which manages the boat launches, are trying to address the issue, he said. They would have to do decontamination upon exit from the lake, which is difficult to do from a logistical and time standpoint, he said, adding that there are stewards that take a look at the boats on the way out.
“They try to do their best to not export invasive species to other lakes,” he said.
Boats came from 449 different water bodies in 24 different states and the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. After New York, the boats came from 55 different water bodies in New Jersey, 46 in Massachusetts and 34 in Connecticut.
Wick said there are no major changes planned for the program in 2018. The only exception would be if the new rest area between Exits 17 and 18 is completed. A boat-washing station is going to be included there. Once that station comes online, the commission would eliminate its inspection site at the Lake George trash transfer station, Wick said.
Boat registrations are a bit down from 2016, which was a banner year with good weather and very little rain, Wick said. It was slightly wetter last year. He attributes the high numbers to an improving economy.
“Our inspection program in no way detours anyone from coming to Lake George, and we think that’s thanks to the funding coming from the governor’s office and the local partners to keep this program free,” he said.
The program costs about $630,000 and is funded through $350,000 from the state Environmental Protection Fund, $100,000 from Warren County and $30,000 each from the village of Lake George and the towns of Bolton and Queensbury, Fund for Lake George and the Lake George Association.
Lake George Association Executive Director Walt Lender said 2017 was another successful year for the program. The LGA had started a voluntary program before the Park Commission implemented a mandatory one.
He added that it is good that inspectors are also checking sanitary systems on boats.
“It’s a great contact with boaters and a great way to check to make sure the sanitary tanks are not discharging,” he said.
Invasive species found in Lake George boats
Source: 2017 Lake George Aquatic Invasives Species Prevention Program Final Report
Species 2016 2017
Eurasian milfoil 69 70
Zebra mussels 11 29
Curly leaf pondweed 17 5
Water chestnut 11 12
Rusty Crayfish 1 0
Variable leaf milfoil 0 1
Snail 0 0