Environmental Protection Fund awards distributed to 24 municipalities for decontamination stations, and educating boaters on dangers of invasive species

Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced that over $2 million in grants from the Environmental Protection Fund will be awarded to 24 municipalities, not-for-profits, and higher educational programs for projects to help protect New York waters from the spread of aquatic invasive species.

The projects, which range geographically from the Adirondacks to the Finger Lakes and beyond, include the placement of boat stewards, the installation of decontamination stations, and the uniform training of boat stewards across the state.

The Keuka Lake Association (KLA), based in Penn Yan, was among of the top awardees, receiving the maximum of $100,000. The DEC grant requires an incremental 25 percent in-kind match from the KLA all of which is spread over a 3-year period.

KLA President Bill Laffin says the project funds will be used to expand the KLA’s Boat Steward Voluntary Inspection and Education Outreach programs that were initiated in 2015. Over $90,000 will be used to hire four Boat Stewards to staff the high volume launches on Keuka Lake - to include Penn Yan, the State Park in Branchport, Urbana and the new kayak livery at the Finger Lakes Museum. Other funds will be used for uniforms, the construction of Aquatic Invasive Species Disposal Stations at some launches, and necessary supplies. Laffin says the KLA will also assist the Finger Lakes Institute with their outreach program on Seneca Lake when their staffing needs require additional support. With 35 fishing tournaments already scheduled for Keuka Lake in 2016, the stewards will rotate between the launches based upon anticipated launch traffic.

“The KLA is very excited about being able to continue its mission to ‘Preserve and Protect Keuka Lake and its natural beauty for future generations,’ and to help combat the introduction of additional Aquatic Invasive Species into Keuka Lake,” says Laffin.

Hobart and William Smith Colleges received two separate grants grants totalling just under $200,000 for education and outreach and for stewardship training on Seneca Lake; and Cornell Univesity received $100,000 also for stewardship training on Cayuga Lake.

“New York State is home to unparalleled natural beauty and we must do everything we can to protect it from invasive aquatic predators,” says Cuomo. “This money will help safeguard lakes and rivers in every corner of this state, protect local ecosystems, and ensure that visitors can experience New York’s natural beauty and wonders for years to come.”

The state has over 7,600 freshwater lakes, ponds, and reservoirs, as well as 70,000 miles of rivers, brooks, and streams; all vulnerable to the introduction of invasive species such as spiny waterfleas, hydrilla, and Eurasian water milfoil, which can spread through connecting waterbodies or be carried on boats and boat trailers.

State Sen. Tom O’Mara says, “The uncontrolled spread of aquatic invasive species like Hydrilla and Eurasian water milfoil would devastate regional tourism economies and cost local communities hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs. We’ve appreciated the hard work of local leaders and concerned citizens throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and statewide, to protect our waterways and secure their quality and economic potential for generations to come. And we’re grateful to concerned boaters and outdoor industry leaders like Cabela’s and Bass Pro for their efforts as a first line of defense against the spread of aquatic invasive species. We’re hopeful that this stepped-up state assistance and investment, and other ongoing efforts, will continue to make a difference.”