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July 25, 2013

Watchdog group worries about invasive plants

(Continued)

Not addressing the threat, Albright said, ends up being far more expensive than taking action because the problem can lead to reductions in the value of lakefront real estate and make the lakes less attractive to tourists.

The 2011 local law passed in Warren County to counter aquatic invasive species calls for minimum fines of $500 per violation, with a maximum fine of $5,000.

McIntyre said enacting such a law is the first goal. But he said the lake advocates would also like to see more widespread boat inspection programs. How they might be funded, he acknowledged, has not been worked out. However, he pointed out, the Lake George Park Commission has a very vigorous inspection program, one that is funded through registration fees paid by boat owners.

A report issued by the Biological Field Station, compiled by Harman and Holly Waterfield, found that 23 aquatic species have been introduced into Otsego Lake since the early 20th Century. “Likewise we know of 53 native species that have been decimated or disappeared during that time period,” their report states.

The goal of combating such invasive species as water chestnuts, zebra mussels and Eurasian Milfoil has also been a priority for organizations such as the Otsego Lake Association, the Otsego County Conservation Association and the Otsego Water Quality Coordinating Committee.

These groups are especially anxious to keep the lake from being invaded by hydrilla, a particularly pesky plant that exists in the Erie Canal and Cayuga Lake.

Lord has consulted with the Catskill Regional Invasive Species Program, which trains people to inspect watercraft and pass out tips to boaters on how to keep their boats and trailers from transporting the organisms.

Experts have calculated that, left unchecked, invasive species could cost the Lake George economy up to $50 million a year, while the decline in real estate values could amount to the hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Having a program, even one that is less than perfect, is a whole lot better than not having a program,” said Albright. “This is a huge problem and if we don’t take care of it, we’re really going to suffer the consequences.”

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