Grant will fund expanded boat inspections

PAUL SMITHS – Paul Smith’s College will use a $500,000 federal grant to expand its boat inspection program and help further protect Adirondack lakes from invasive species.

The grant was awarded last week to the college’s Watershed Stewardship Program from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, college officials announced in a Monday press release.

“This award represents an investment in the future of water quality, biodiversity, and economic and community sustainability in one of our nation’s most cherished natural landscapes,” Watershed Stewardship Program Director Eric Holmlund said in the release.

The funding will allow the program to expand its boat inspection efforts for the 2015 season. Seasonal inspectors will perform 14,000 inspections at about 20 boat launches across the western Adirondacks to help curb the spread of invasive species like Eurasian watermilfoil, zebra mussels and spiny waterflea. The stewards will remove any invaders they find and educate boaters on how they can help prevent the spread of invasives.

The Watershed Stewardship Program is part of the college’s Adirondack Watershed Institute, a leading advocate and researcher of water quality throughout the Adirondack Park.

Every summer, the stewardship program dispatches crews to public boat launches in and around the Adirondack Park. The EPA has supported the program with two earlier grants. Inspections this year will begin on Memorial Day weekend and continue throughout the summer. Inspectors are also stationed at several sites not covered by the EPA grants.

Once invasives establish a presence in lakes, rivers and streams, they can disrupt ecosystems and squeeze out other native species. In addition to biological costs, invasive species can threaten both trade and tourism.

Inspection sites funded by the grant include Cranberry Lake, access sites along the Oswegatchie River, First Lake (Old Forge), Fourth Lake (Inlet), Seventh Lake, Eighth Lake State Campground, Stillwater Reservoir, Big Moose Lake (pending approval), Brown’s Tract (pending approval), Limekiln Lake State Campground, Raquette Lake, Forked Lake, Long Lake, Little Tupper Lake (pending approval), Lows Lake (pending approval), Big Tupper Lake, St. Regis Canoe Area, Osgood Pond, Meacham Lake State Campground and Chateaugay Lake State Boat Launch.

The EPA announced the award last week; in all, the agency gave grants worth more than $5 million to 11 different projects. Since the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was launched in 2010, the EPA has funded more than 70 projects totaling more than $40 million.