New York State is proposing new regulations to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species at its freshwater boat launching sites.
If the rules are adopted by the Department of Environmental Conservation, boaters will be required to remove all plants and animals from boats, trailers and equipment in addition to draining their boats' bilges and other storage tanks before launching or leaving a DEC waterways access site.
There are 24 DEC sites that provide boating access to freshwater lakes and ponds in Nassau and Suffolk, four of which have launching ramps that can accommodate trailers. According to the agency, invasive species compete with native plants and animals and diminish biological diversity.
"Boats, trailers and the equipment can spread aquatic invasive species from waterbody to waterbody and significantly harm recreational and commercial use of a waterbody, while having a detrimental effect on native fish, wildlife and plants," said New York State DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens.
Some of the invasive species that have been found in Long Island's freshwaters include fanwort, parrotfeather, creeping water primrose, Brazilian elodea, curly-leaf pondweed and water chestnut.
"Most recently, hydrilla was detected in Lake Ronkonkoma, Long Island's largest lake. Hydrilla is a particularly aggressive invasive aquatic plant that has caused major problems in southern waters," according to DEC spokeswoman Lori Severino.
Chris Squeri, president of the Empire State Marine Trades Association and co-owner of Atlantic Yacht Haven in Freeport, said the invasive species problem is known by boaters.
"Invasive species are an important issue," he said.
Squeri said the state should take advantage of the boat registration or renewal process to spread awareness of invasive species to boaters. The problem with this approach is that half of the boats in the state, such as kayaks and canoes, are not registered, according to officials.
Vincent Pica, Coast Guard Auxiliary commodore for New York, Connecticut and Vermont, said the proposed regulation is "conceptually in the right direction."
"There are plenty of examples of species invading our waters," Pica said. "One example is the zebra mussel, which come into our waters and they overcrowd the natural mussels. They are voracious eaters and there is no natural balance." The species has spread into upstate freshwater lakes.
Currently, the DEC advises boaters to check their trailers and equipment for any plant or animal materials and discard them at special disposal stations located at launching ramps. Boaters are also advised to drain and dry their boats completely, including bait wells and bilge tanks, before using the boat in another body of water. The Mattituck Creek DEC Marine Waterways Access Site on the North Fork is the only Long Island site with a marine boat washing station.
The proposed regulation, if enacted, would provide for up to 15 days in jail and fines up to $250 for violators.
Comments will be accepted until Feb. 24 via email to email@example.com, or by mail to Edward Woltmann, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Bureau of Fisheries, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4753.