LAKE GEORGE (AP) - All trailered boats entering Lake George are required to be inspected for aquatic hitchhikers under a law that took effect Thursday.
The law that requires contaminated boats to be cleaned is intended to prevent invasive plants and animals from entering the popular southeastern Adirondack lake. While similar programs exist at western lakes including Lake Tahoe, sponsors say it's the only mandatory boat inspection law east of the Mississippi.
The inspections and hot-water washing are free to the public at six regional inspection stations.
The program costs about $700,000 a year, mostly to pay about 50 people to do the inspections and washing. Half the money comes from the state and the rest from a coalition of advocacy groups and lakeside municipalities.
While dozens of invasive species such as zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and spiny waterflea have become widespread in the Great Lakes and other water bodies across the state, the Adirondack Mountain region has remained virtually free of unwanted invaders. Many of region's 3,000 lakes and ponds are inaccessible to trailered motorboats that can carry aquatic plants and animals from other waters.
"The Adirondacks are an island in a sea of invasives," said Eric Siy, executive director of the Fund For Lake George, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization. "The wonder of it is, even at this late date, we can still spare the Adirondacks the fate of other places with a prevention program like this."
More than $7 million has been spent trying to eradicate Eurasian watermilfoil, Asian clams and zebra mussels that have gained a small foothold in some bays of the 32-mile-long, mountain-ringed lake known for its crystal clear water.
"What we've learned on Lake George is, we've gone to great lengths to get rid of them, but they're still surviving and spreading," Siy said. "Prevention is really the only means of protection."