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Stewards enforcing regulations at Great Sacandaga Lake

Saturday, June 28, 2014 - Updated: 4:09 AM

By CAROLINE MURRAY

caroline.murray@recordernews.com

GREAT SACANDAGA LAKE -- "Check. Clean. Dry."

That's the state Department of Environmental Conservation's new motto in its quest to stop the spread of invasive species.

The department's new regulation went into effect June 4, requiring all boaters utilizing state boat launches to clean and drain their boats or other water craft prior to setting sail.

Two Paul Smith's College students are working as watershed stewards stationed at the Broadalbin and Northampton state boat launch sites. Their jobs are to inform boaters of the department's newly-adopted policy, and inspect boats for invasive species before they are launched into the Great Sacandaga Lake.

"I think it is a great idea," said Ballston Lake resident Art Bufe. "I don't want anyone contaminating this lake, or any other lake."

Bufe was one of several boaters at the Broadalbin boat launch Friday. Bufe said he takes his vessel out on the Sacandaga every week, weather permitting.

Bufe said he always cleans off his boat at home before returning to the lake.

Regardless of Bufe's routine, his boat was checked Friday by watershed steward Philip Dumais, who rotates between the Broadalbin and Northampton boat launches during the week.

Dumais is enrolled in his third year in the college's fisheries and wildlife undergraduate program.

He is one of the 34 stewards assigned to 28 lakes in the Adirondacks that are taking part in the watershed stewardship program.

This summer marks the first year the initiative has returned to the Great Sacandaga Lake since 2009.

It was re-enacted this year through the Great Sacandaga Lake Fisheries Federation and the college.

Dumais said each steward is in possession of a list of all the invasive species contaminating various lakes. The Sacandaga is currently tainted with the spiny water flea, Eurasian water milfoil, and brittle naid.

"Of what we know of," Dumais said. "There could be something else out there we don't know of yet."

Dumais said he started working on Memorial Day weekend. He can be found at either site Wednesday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., spreading awareness about invasive species, and surveying boats for inspection.

In addition to inspections, Dumais might ask boaters to empty any water holding compartments, such as live wells or bait wells before the vessel can enter a new body of water.

There are no wash stations at the site in Broadalbin. Dumais said if he finds invasive species of any kind, he politely asks the boater to remove the organisms.

Dumais said he makes sure they dispose the species in the woods so it is not exposed to the lake water.

As part of the program, he also conveys the importance of keeping boats and other water craft clean.

He said although the program is good for the lake's ecosystem, enforcing the new rule could be off-putting to tourists.

However, Dumais said he has not run into any problems, yet.

"Many people are thankful for us being here," Dumais said.

He said some boaters can be impatient and grumpy, but nevertheless allow the stewards to do their jobs.

In addition to the stewards, DEC spokeswoman Lori Severino said the department's law enforcement officers can be found during regular patrol hours at launch sites.

Severino said boaters who break the new law can be penalized.

If a boater purposely disobeys the law, she said officials can issue them a $250 fine, or be sentenced to up to 15 days in jail.

"The DEC's Division of Law Enforcement will check for compliance during regular patrols, and may also detail officers at times at the ramp," Severino said. "Main focus will be education and outreach to prevent violations."

Tribes Hill resident Greg Taylor was about to launch his boat Friday, when Dumais pulled him aside.

He asked him questions such as, "Have you been in any body of water recently?" and, "Do you do any thing to stop the spread of invasives?"

He also inspected his pontoon boat before sending Taylor on his way.

Dumais said the ultimate goal of the stewardship program is to make cleaning off boats a habitual practice.

Taylor said he didn't mind the new practice.

"I take it out of the water and make sure there are no weeds," Taylor said while answering Dumais. "Things like that."

     

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