Consultant urges mandatory boat inspections

A consultant has recommended the Lake George Park Commission impose a mandatory inspection system for recreational boats in order to prevent future infestations of aquatic invasive species.

The LA Group, a Saratoga-based engineering consultant, made the recommendations during a public presentation held in Bolton last Thursday.

According to the report posted on the park commission’s website, if nothing is done the lake could suffer additional infestations of invasive species, declining property values, reduced tourism and lost jobs.

An analysis of the economic implications of further invasive species reaching Lake George found it could reduce property values by as much as $386 million or 16 percent.

Water fouled by invasive species could also discourage some tourists from visiting. The LA Group estimates that tourist spending could decrease by $9.7 to $48.7 million annually, from $487 million in 2010.

Because of these risks, the consultant recommended the park commission mandate all boats be inspected before being allowed in the lake, and if they fail inspection, cleaned with high-pressure water.

Dave Wick, executive director for the LGPC, said the plan is modeled on prevention methods used at other lakes across the country.

The LA Group examined nine states that require mandatory boat inspections and found voluntary inspections are not an effective means of preventing the spread of invasive species, whereas mandatory inspections have proven effective in other areas.

“This has been found to be the best plan for the long-term protection of some of these lakes,” Wick said.

The proposed plan would require inspections of all transient boats.

Every boat entering Lake George would be required to undergo an inspection and would receive a tag signifying the boat had complied with “clean, drain and dry standards.” The tag would then be removed upon launch and a new tag secured to the boat trailer upon leaving the launch. Boats that arrive at a launch with an intact tag can re-enter the water without further inspection.

Boats that don’t pass the inspection would undergo decontamination at a boat washing station.

There would be a streamlined procedure for “Lake George-only” boats, which accounts for 66 percent of all boat traffic, Wicks said. Once boats have been inspected they needn’t be inspected again so long as they remain in Lake George.

“We’re trying to make this as user-friendly as possible,” said Wicks.

Much to his surprise, Wicks said the public has for the most part been on board with the idea.

“There has been a near-unanimous sentiment that mandatory enforcement is needed,” he said.

The lake has five infestations of invasive species — curly leaf pondweed, Eurasian water milfoil, zebra mussels, Asian clams and spiny water flea — and is surrounded by bodies of water (Lake Champlain and the Hudson River) that have more.

The presentation did not detail how the inspection process would be funded, although it did suggest a number of possible sources including inspection fees, boat and dock fees, occupancy tax funds, municipal contributions, donations, grants and a portion of local sales tax revenue.

Wicks said the plan could cost anywhere from $400,000 to $800,000 depending on how many inspection stations are built.

He said the LA Group is expected to provide a final draft to the commission in two weeks and it will vote how to progress at its November meeting.

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