A pair of separate bills passed last week by the state Legislature will change the way the state and boaters handle aquatic invasive species, if Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs the bills into law.
The Aquatic Invasive Species Act will require fines for boaters who don't clean their boats of invasives that might be hitchhiking on board.
The bill will require boaters to drain areas of the watercraft of all bilge water when entering and leaving launch sites, as well as to remove visible vegetation or animals from boats and gear. The law would be implemented statewide and would be enforced by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
People who are in violation of this law for a first offense will be written a warning and given education materials. A second violation will result in a fine of $150, $250 for a third offense and no more than $1,000 for a fourth or subsequent offense.
The other bill would create universal signage to warn against the threat of aquatic invasive species.
The legislation requires the DEC to design a universal sign within one year of the effective date of the law and for the agency to post or provide for the posting of the signs at each public boat launch in the state. There are 19 boat launching areas in Franklin County and 11 in Essex County, according to DEC.
A total of 22 common aquatic invasive species are listed on the website of the DEC. Some that affect the Adirondack region include zebra mussels, variable leaf milfoil, Asian clams and European frogbit.
State Sen. Betty Little, and Assemblyman Dan Stec, both Republicans from Queensbury, sponsored the legislation that passed both the Assembly and Senate.
"The importance of public education cannot be overstated in the fight against aquatic invasive species," Little wrote in a press release. "Key to that effort is a consistent message, both in terms of what the threat is and what steps boaters should take to protect our waterways. Posting signs that are informative and convey to boaters their responsibility will help prevent the spread of invasives and save tax dollars in the long run."
Stec said he is pleased that "we are continuing to reinforce the importance of education to boaters that address key preventive measures."
Environmental groups praised both laws as a victory for their cause. They believe the spread of aquatic invasive species threatens clean water, aquatic ecosystems and the tourism-based economy of the Adirondacks.
"With New York State being at the epicenter of invasive species infestations, it is crucial that we prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species by requiring the decontamination of boats before launch," Adirondack Council Legislative Director Kevin Chlad wrote in a release. "The commitment to pass this bill was impressive. It shows broad support for the follow-up transformational increase in dedicated funding that is needed for invasive species research, education, prevention, eradication and management."
Some boaters have a different take on the proposed boating law. Terence Fogarty, the owner of Fogarty's Lake Flower Marina in Saranac Lake, agrees with the premise of protecting against invasive species but thinks fines are unnecessary.
"While adding boating regulations always concerns me, I think that taking measures to control the spread of invasive species makes sense," Fogarty wrote by email to the Enterprise. "While I agree with having boaters remove invasive species from their boats and trailers prior to launching them and after they are removed from the water, I am not sure a law and fine schedule is necessary. I think most boaters have the sense to follow this procedure when notified to do so at launch sites without legal recourse."
July 6 to 12 is Invasive Species Awareness Week in the state, including the Adirondack region.