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DEC reminds water recreationists to 'Clean. Drain. Dry.' watercraft to protect waters from aquatic invasive species


Wed, May 10th 2023 09:30 am

Importance of invasive species prevention is highlighted by hydrilla control efforts in Niagara County & across state

Submitted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos reminded boaters to clean, drain and dry their boats and trailers, and disinfect their fishing gear before recreating in New York’s waters, to prevent the spread of harmful aquatic invasive species (AIS). Watercraft inspection stewards (boat stewards) are deploying across the state to educate and assist the public in cleaning equipment this season to prevent the introduction and spread of non-native plants and animals in New York waterbodies.

“The watercraft inspection steward program continues to play a significant role in defending lakes, ponds and rivers against the spread of AIS,” Seggos said. “Our boat stewards have successfully increased public awareness about the threats of AIS and helping more New Yorkers participate in best management practices such as ‘Clean. Drain. Dry.’ I ask all New York residents and visitors to please continue to do your part in protecting our waters from the negative impacts of invasive species.”

Boat stewards will be stationed at more than 200 boat launches and decontamination stations throughout the state by Memorial Day weekend. Identified by their blue vests, boat stewards can provide a refresher on how to inspect your boat and gear and offer information on AIS in New York.

Last year, DEC’s boat stewards inspected more than 220,000 boats and intercepted more than 8,000 AIS, including hydrilla, which led to the discovery of a new infestation in the Niagara River. Efforts are currently underway to control the invasive plant and prevent it from negatively impacting the native ecosystem, as well as water recreation. DEC is collaborating with local stakeholders and federal partners to keep the infestation contained and prevent further spread.

In August, 2021, DEC announced the AIS plant, hydrilla, was found at the City of North Tonawanda marina. The discovery was made by a concerned citizen who reported it to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). DEC and partners, including USACE, are working to prevent the infestation from spreading. There are no other known infestations of hydrilla along the river.

Hydrilla negatively impacts recreation, tourism and aquatic ecosystems, and is one of the most difficult aquatic invasive species to control. This invasive plant breaks apart easily, and new plants can develop from pieces of stem that are no more than an inch long.

DEC continues to work with the City of North Tonawanda, USACE, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Western New York Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM) to develop a long-term management plan that will include aquatic plant monitoring, additional herbicide treatments, and education and outreach efforts. In the short term, boaters visiting the marina are advised to lift their motors and clean their props by reversing and then forwarding several times to dislodge any hydrilla fragments before entering the Niagara River.

In addition to Niagara County, hydrilla infestations are being actively controlled in Erie County (Erie Canal); Cayuga, Tompkins and Seneca counties (Cayuga Lake); and Tioga County (Spencer Pond, Little Nanticoke Creek and Kuhlman Pond). Hydrilla control efforts were successfully completed in Green and Hickory lakes in Erie County, as well as the Croton River in Westchester County. Visit DEC's website for more information on hydrilla and a step-by-step guide for ridding boats and equipment of AIS.

DEC Region 9 Director Julie Barrett-O’Neill said, “Our stewards will be helping with public education and outreach along the Niagara River this season. Look for the blue vests and learn how you can prevent the spread of AIS and protect our natural resources.”

All water recreationists should follow these steps to make sure their equipment isn’t harboring AIS:

√ Clean mud, plants, and animals off boating and fishing equipment (trailer bunks, axles, rollers, lights, transducers, license plates, motor props, tackle, waders, etc.), and discard the material in a trash can or at a disposal station;

√ Drain all water-holding compartments, including ballast tanks, live wells and bilge areas, before leaving an access site; and

√ Dry everything thoroughly before using boats or equipment in another waterbody. Drying times can vary, but a minimum of five to seven days in dry, warm conditions is recommended. When there's no time to dry between uses, disinfect things with hot water that is at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit, or visit a decontamination site.

All New York residents and visitors have a role to play in protecting state waters from invasive species. Visit DEC's website for more tips on how to clean, drain and dry watercraft, fishing gear and other equipment, and for more information about New York's watercraft inspection steward program.

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