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Stec: State needs better plan to control invasive species
Inspection

Stec: State needs better plan to control invasive species

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Assemblyman-elect Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, was noncommittal when asked Friday if he supports the Lake George Park Commission’s proposed boat inspection and decontamination program.

The Park Commission’s hopes to have a lakewide program up and running by the spring were dashed last month, after state Department of Environmental Conservation officials questioned the proposal’s value and DEC officials said more review was needed before considering it.

Stec has asked Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb for a seat on the Environmental Conservation Committee, a slot held for years by Stec’s predecessor, Teresa Sayward, R-Willsboro.

Stec said Friday he isn’t sure if he’d champion legislation to allow the Park Commission to nearly double its boat registration fees to fund the $700,000-a-year program.

“I need to learn more,” Stec said, adding New York can’t continue a solely reactionary approach to the problem of invasive species. “My frustration is that these people whose task it is to implement those options aren’t moving fast enough. DEC and the Park Commission need to get together and hustle.”

Park Commission Executive Director Dave Wick has been meeting for months with DEC officials and members of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s staff in the hopes of gaining support in Albany for the plan.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors Legislative Committee and Invasive Species Subcommittee last week moved to create a local law that would require boat inspections.

The mechanics of the plan haven’t been fleshed out.

Invasive species are a statewide problem, Stec said, noting local regulations can only be so effective, especially on a lake shared by three counties. He suggested state Environmental Protection Fund money should be used for some sort of statewide program aimed at stopping the march of aquatic invasive species.

DEC Deputy Director for Natural Resources Kathy Moser last month panned the plan. She suggested a “self-certification” program, by which boaters pledge their vessels are clean, would be cheaper and less onerous than the Park Commission’s proposal.

DEC is using a similar self-certification program for its crackdown on firewood transportation.

“It just seems like the state’s approach is to put its head in the sand,” Stec said.

Finding support for the proposed lakewide crackdown — which has been especially controversial with fishermen — in the Cuomo administration is going to be a tough lift because of the state’s efforts to re-brand itself and shed the perception New York is over-regulated and over taxed, Sayward said recently.

There are five invasive species in Lake George, and most neighboring bodies of water have substantially more.

More than $1 million of public and private money has been spent since 2011 trying to eradicate the Asian clam, which state officials now say is probably impossible to kill off entirely.

And, with no real plan to protect Lake George in the near future, Stec said the problem of invasive species, whether tackled regionally or state-wide, can’t sit on the back burner for too long.

“I guess we just hope next year isn’t the year of the Quagga mussel,” he said, referring to yet another ecology shifting mollusk present in other lakes in New York.

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