New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced a $13.24-million, five-year partnership with the Adirondack Watershed Institute (AWI) of Paul Smith’s College to administer the Adirondack Park Watercraft Inspection Steward Program (WISP). The announcement, made during Adirondack Day at the New York State Capitol, is expected to protect the Adirondack Park’s resources from the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) that damage ecosystems.
DEC’s five-year contract with the Adirondack Watershed Institute (AWI) runs through December 2027, and is funded from the State’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). The contract builds upon New York State’s ongoing commitment, officially launched in 2015, to preventing the spread of AIS in the Adirondack Park. Since that time, the inspection program has expanded to cover nearly 60 locations with approximately 29 decontamination stations where 68,000 inspections were conducted last year alone.
The AIS spread prevention program: reduces the risk of introduction and spread of high-priority AIS into and within the Adirondack region via watercraft and equipment; protects native aquatic species and habitats from potential introductions of AIS; protects water-based recreational resources and local economies; educates recreational watercraft operators of the legal requirements of “Clean. Drain. Dry.” standards required by State law and regulation and assists in achieving compliance; provides self-certification documents as needed by the program; fosters a sense of responsibility and self-motivation in watercraft operators to do their part to prevent the spread of AIS when not assisted by boat stewards; and protects New Yorkers’ investment in publicly owned water.
Since the inception of the program, stewards have interacted with more than a half million people and inspected more than a half million boats. Stewards have intercepted zebra mussels, waterfleas, Eurasian watermilfoil, curly leaf pond weed, and hydrilla. Hydrilla is an invasive aquatic plant that is a federally listed noxious weed and prohibited by State regulation. New York State currently invests close to $500,000 per year to control and manage hydrilla in Cayuga Lake and Spencer Pond/Little Nanticoke Creek.
Effective last year, motorized boat users are required to obtain certification that they have inspected and removed potentially harmful aquatic invasive species before launching in waters in, and immediately adjacent to, the Adirondack Park. If a DEC inspection station adjacent to a public waterbody in the Adirondack Park is open for operation, boaters must have either a self-issuing certification or decontamination certificate from a DEC inspection station before launching into the waterbody.
See information on Adirondack boater requirements and to view a video of DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos with Adirondack Watershed Institute boat stewards performing watercraft inspection and decontamination services at DEC’s Port Henry boat launch site, visit DEC’s YouTube page.
To learn more about watercraft inspection steward programs in New York, click here.
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