Good steps to slow invasive species

New York’s Legislature has given Gov. Andrew Cuomo two important bills intended to slow the spread of invasive plants and animals in rivers, lakes and ponds. He should sign them into law.

One of the bills, state Sen. Betty Little and Assemblyman Dan Stec, would require the state Department of Environmental Conservation to design universal signage that warns against the threat of aquatic invasive species and to post, or provide for the posting of, such signs at each public boat launch in the state. There are 19 boat launching areas in Franklin County and 11 in Essex County, according to DEC. The department would have a year to get the signs ready.

The other bill would add a little bite for those who disregard the signs. It would require fines for boaters who don’t clean their boats of invasives that catch a ride with them. Those who don’t drain all bilge water when entering and leaving launch sites, or who don’t remove visible vegetation or animals from boats and gear, would earn a written warning for the first offense, a $150 fine for the second violation, $250 for a third and no more than $1,000 for a fourth or subsequent offense.

The catch, of course, is enforcement. Boaters will only be penalized if they’re caught, and the DEC is already stretched too thin.

Therefore, there’s a good chance these bills might do too little to block the wave of invasives like Eurasian watermilfoil, which already clogs local waterways like the Saranac lakes and Lake Flower.

They’re still important, though, because they put the onus where it belongs – on boaters who unwittingly spread these species. They’ll have no excuse.

So please, anyone who boats, always check your craft for possible plant and animal hitchhikers and clean them off every time you put it in and take it out. It’s up to you, and hopefully it will soon be the law.

These bills are inexpensive for now, which is good, but more effective measures like boat-washing stations or human boat stewards at launches cost money. Much more of that needs to happen, and we hope individuals, local governments and most importantly the state will team up to pay for it.

Here in the Adirondacks, our clean, natural water bodies keep the local economy afloat, and invasive species are a big threat to that.