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North Country News

Adirondack Watershed Institute Receives Federal Grant For Aquatic Invasive Prevention

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Adirondack Watershed Institute
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The Adirondack Watershed Institute at Paul Smith’s College has received a half-million dollar federal grant to continue its invasive species spread prevention efforts.

Every summer, inspectors from the Watershed Institute are stationed at boat launches in the western Adirondacks. They check boats and encourage owners to clean watercraft before launching. The new grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative will allow the program to expand. This latest funding is expected to allow inspectors to conduct nearly 14,000 inspections at 20 boat launches across the western Adirondacks to prevent the spread of species such as Eurasian water milfoil, zebra mussels and spiny waterflea. Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Stewardship Program Director Eric Holmlund says the program is making a difference.  “About two to three percent of the watercraft we encounter have visible aquatic organisms that are invasive on them, and about ten percent overall of the boats are carrying some form of organic material that is not a threat. So off of hundreds of boats we are removing aquatic invasive species. So that's a real measurable impact of the program. Otherwise those hundreds of invasive species would have been introduced into the twenty-two or so lakes that we’ve been at.

Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program Aquatic Invasive Species Project Coordinator Meghan Johnstone reports that one of the best ways to limit the spread of aquatic invasive species through boat vectors is inspection programs.  “They’ve been shown to be very effective for identifying invasive species and other plant material, and then also removing them. Education is a really important part in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species.  It’s really important that people know exactly what they can do to prevent the spread of invasives on their boats when a steward isn’t present. They’re also really great for collecting data and that data can inform regional prevention strategies. The scientific research does  show that visually inspecting and removing plants off of boats using boat launch steward programs and the stewards themselves really does work.”

Holmlund says the lake stewards ask boaters if they are doing anything to prevent the spread of invasives species. Last year, 64 percent said they are doing something, but Holmlund adds, that means more than a quarter risk transporting a non-native species. He would like to see statewide regulations.  “If someone wants to launch a watercraft in any of our lakes where we station employees and they  have something that’s visibly hanging from their the boat that is even positively identified as an aquatic invader,  if they choose to launch it, despite our employees’ urging to do otherwise, our employee has no recourse. Now this year we do have a new statewide transport law that we can cite. We're hoping that it will be actually enforceable in a timely way. It's an issue that we need to get ahead of. That’s the whole point of  aquatic invasive species spread ecology. If you don't get it before they get into your water body, the invasives essentially become impossible to remove.”

Inspection sites funded by the EPA grant include boat launches on Cranberry Lake, First, Fourth and Seventh Lakes, Raquette, Long and Tupper Lakes and the St. Regis Canoe Area.

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