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Governor signs aquatic invasive species law

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law on Friday, Dec. 10 legislation that grants the state Department of Environmental Conservation the ability to conduct inspections and decontamination of boats and other watercraft to prevent aquatic invasive species spread in and around the Adirondack Park.

The new bill permanently extends the New York State Aquatic Invasive Species Transport Act, which requires boaters to “Clean, Drain and Dry” their watercraft before launching in state waters, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

The law extends expired aquatic invasive species legislation from 2014 and authorizes DEC-operated “inspection stations” to be set up at any location across the park and within a 10-mile radius of the blue line. The stations would provide certifications for boat inspection and decontamination in addition to providing education and outreach to boaters.

Aquatic invasive species are a threat to native species, and according to Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute, invasives are nearly impossible to get rid of once they’re established.

“We need to make sure every New Yorker is on board with protecting our waters and its inhabitants,” Hochul said in a statement.

The new inspection requirement will take effect 180 days after the law was signed, or May 2022.

The AWI already operates dozens of boat wash and decontamination stations in the park. While the AWI’s wash stations are voluntary, the DEC can require people with motorized boats to stop for inspection and decontamination at the new stations.

Once a boat is inspected, the DEC inspector will give boaters a certification listing the date and time the boat was inspected, if any preventative measures were performed and if the boat was decontaminated. The inspector will then attach a tamper-proof tag to the boat signaling it’s ready to launch.

The law also requires the DEC to create self-issuing certifications for people who can demonstrate that they’ve taken proper precautions against invasive species prior to launch. People can also present certification from another government entity to the DEC, according to the law, as long as that entity’s basic inspection and decontamination requirements adhere to the DEC’s.

Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay Lake, authored the bill.

“Once these species spread, attempting to contain them can be extremely expensive and time-consuming,” Jones said in a statement. “This bill will prevent spread before it starts by instituting regular inspections and by educating boaters, which will not only save time and money, but also better safeguard our environment as well as protect land values for property owners.”

Local green groups applauded Hochul for signing the aquatic invasive species law.

The Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, a Keene-Valley based program hosted by the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, has operated for over two decades to keep aquatic invasive species in the park at bay, and program Manager Tammara Van Ryn said that the new bill is another effort in maintaining recent progress in invasive species prevention.

“Today, approximately 75% of Adirondack waterways are free of invasive species,” Van Ryn said. “We must never take for granted that our clean Adirondack waterways are the result of the many years of preventative work we’ve accomplished through strong partnerships with government, local nonprofits, and community volunteers.”

Adirondack Council Executive Director Willie Janeway said in a statement that the new law boosts existing efforts to prevent aquatic invasive species spread — efforts he said are beneficial to outdoor enthusiasts and water bodies throughout the Adirondacks.

“This law doesn’t impose new penalties or create burdensome requirements for boaters,” Janeway said. “It establishes a user-friendly system to verify compliance with the clean, drain, dry requirements already established in law. It supports the existing boat wash and inspection stations to which the public has grown accustomed across the region.”