Don’t Move a Mussel: Boat Stewards Save Schroon Lake From Invasive Species

By Gary Karl

Boat stewards intercepted boats carrying five different aquatic invasive species (AIS) before they entered the Schroon Lake watershed during the 2017 boating season.

The Town of Horicon’s stewards stopped:

  • 21 boats carrying curly-leaf pondweed
  • 10 boats with Eurasian watermilfoil (EWM)
  • AWI collected data from over 97,000 boat inspections at 67 launches and 20 boat wash stations in the Adirondack Park, including four locations in the Schroon Lake watershed (Paradox, Hamlet of Schroon Lake, North Schroon and Horicon).

AWI’s data shows that:

  • Schroon Lake is one of the busiest boating lakes in the Adirondacks, with almost 8,000 boats inspected at the various launch sites (over 6,100 at the Horicon launch alone). Only Lake Champlain, Lake George and the Great Sacandaga Lake had more boats inspected.
  • 4.2% of the boats inspected at the Horicon launch were “dirty” (transporting some organism).
  • With 568 washes (9% of boats inspected), the Horicon boat wash is the busiest decontamination site in the AWI network.
  • Boats entering Schroon Lake had been on 90 other waterways in the two weeks preceding their launch here.
  • Those waterways predictably included nearby Lake George, Lake Champlain, Saratoga Lake and the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers. All are known hosts of more AIS than are already present in Schroon Lake.
  • Surprisingly, the other waterways last visited before Schroon Lake included faraway lakes in Massachusetts, Maine, Delaware and Florida–even the Atlantic Ocean! Who knows what AIS might be transported by boats from those waters.

Tracking “last waterway visited” shows the pattern of movement of boats from lake to lake in the Adirondacks. For each lake, AWI combined that pattern with data on the various AIS present in the last waterways visited. In this way, AWI projects the most likely paths for the spread of AIS.

AWI concludes that Schroon Lake shows “particular vulnerability” to transported AIS under this analysis. This is largely because of exposure to boats from Lake George, which is itself vulnerable to AIS present in the Hudson River and Lake Champlain.

“The AWI report confirms that our boat stewards at Horicon do a crucially important job, and they do it very well,” says Rich Nawrot, ESSLA’s liaison to the Town of Horicon’s boat steward program. “We thank our stewards, and we thank boaters for their cooperation in keeping their vessels clean, drained and dry.”

Adds Rich, “Boat inspections and washes are the best way to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species. ESSLA will do all we can to obtain continued funding for the program on Schroon and Paradox and to develop uniform practices for inspecting and decontaminating boats across the Adirondacks.”

~Gary Karl is an ESSLA Board Director and Chair of Partner Relations and Nominations Committee


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