Watershed council plans to pay boat stewards who check Canandaigua Lake watercraft

CANANDAIGUA — A volunteer program launched last summer that aimed to keep certain invasive species out of Canandaigua Lake and limit others already found in its waters might be ramped up this coming boating season.

The Canandaigua Lake Watershed Council is seeking $3,000 each from the city and town of Canandaigua as well as the town of Gorham to help pay the boat stewards who inspect watercraft and remove aquatic invasive species from them.

The funding this year will help the program be sustainable beyond 2015, according to Kevin Olvany, watershed manager for the council.

A big push is on to prevent hydrilla — a pervasive and resilient plant introduced to the country through the aquarium trade — from entering the lake, Olvany told members of City Council’s Environmental Committee Jan. 13.

“It can truly take over an ecosystem quickly,” Olvany said.

The Canandaigua Lake Watershed Association last year managed the watercraft steward program, which is funded by public and private sources, at the two state launches on the lake.

The bulk of the time was spent at the Canandaigua Boat Launch, and volunteers worked 120 hours and checked 884 boats as they entered or left the lake, according to Stephen Lewandowski, a consultant with the association.

Volunteers found and removed 58 invasive organisms.

In all, 1,252 boats were inspected last year, which proved an educational success by having boaters learn the importance of cleaning their crafts, Lewandowski said.

“The stewards were busy,” Lewandowski said. “It was very successful from an educational standpoint.”

Stewards are educators, boat cleaners and at times, disposers of invasive species. Lake police officers, however, they are not, Lewandowski said.

The state has enacted a law that prohibits a “dirty” boat from entering the water, but enforcement is an issue, Olvany said.

Efforts would be concentrated at the lake’s two major launch sites, but signs would be posted at other launches around the lake. Disposal stations also would be made available.

“The goal is to educate folks to do the right thing,” Olvany said.

Members of the City Council's Environmental Committee who attended the meeting were generally supportive of the expense.

The matter will be referred to the council’s Finance Committee to determine where the money will come from in the budget, said Councilmember Nick Cutri, who chairs the Environmental Committee.

“It’s a necessary initiative,” Cutri said.

Councilmember Maria Bucci praised the work volunteers did last year, but said paying them would help provide consistency.

“Having someone there all the time was difficult,” Bucci said.

The stakes are high.

Hydrilla is difficult to eradicate and control once it enters a waterway, Olvany said. Thousands of dollars have been spent to control and eradicate the plant from Cayuga Lake, he said.

“We’re trying to avoid that,” Olvany said. “All it takes is one boat and we’re done.”


By the numbers

58 Invasive species found, removed by boat stewards last year

1,252 Number of boats inspected last year

120 Hours spent last year by volunteers checking boats