New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced the finalization of a Unit Management Plan amendment to guide siting, construction, and management of watercraft decontamination facilities at DEC campgrounds and day-use areas.
The construction and permanent placement of watercraft decontamination facilities supports DEC’s ongoing efforts to prevent the spread of harmful aquatic invasive species (AIS).
AIS are non-native aquatic plants and animals that can cause environmental and economic harm and threaten human health. AIS have been found in many of New York State’s lakes, ponds, and rivers, and these harmful pests can be transported from waterbody to waterbody on watercraft and equipment.
DEC manages 52 campgrounds in the Adirondack and Catskill parks with more than one million visitor camper nights each season. The campgrounds and five special use areas at Lake George Beach, Prospect Mountain Highway, Hinckley Reservoir Picnic Area, Fourth Lake Picnic Area, and Lake George Battlefield Picnic Area are visited by nearly 400,000 people annually. Many of these visitors bring recreational watercraft with them to the campgrounds, arriving at these DEC facilities from every county in New York, as well as many states and Canadian provinces.
Research shows that recreational watercraft are a top vector for the transport and introduction of AIS throughout the country. Watercraft inspection stewards provide education and outreach to many boaters at DEC campgrounds. The stewards offer voluntary inspections and boat washes using special decontamination units that have high pressure and hot water to dislodge and remove AIS from the watercraft and trailers. Currently, decontamination units are housed in seasonal sheds. Moving the temporary sheds at the end of each season is challenging and can damage equipment. Following a comment period announced earlier this year, DEC finalized the amendment and will advance efforts to construct storage facilities at campgrounds and day-use areas in the Adirondack and Catskill parks to store decontamination equipment.
The amendment is posted on the DEC website. Copies of the amendment are available by calling (518) 457-2500 or contacting Josh Houghton, NYS DEC Bureau of Recreation, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-5253, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
DEC reminds water recreationists to do their part in protecting New York’s waters from AIS by remembering to clean, drain, and dry watercraft and equipment. Taking proactive steps such as cleaning off fishing tackle, removing aquatic vegetation from rudders, disinfecting boat hulls and water compartments, and properly disposing of bait, significantly reduces that risk.