The Yates County Legislature will not vote on a proposed local law intended to prevent the introduction and movement of aquatic invasive species in Yates County waters during their April 8 meeting as previously planned because additional work needs to be done on the draft law, explains District III Legislator Dan Banach of Milo, who is chairman of the Public Works Committee.
A public hearing on the proposed law will still be held at the beginning of the 1 p.m. meeting Monday.
Although some non-native invasive species have already found their way into the local lakes and waterways, the proposed law was spawned by increased concerns over the spread of hydrilla, an aggressive water weed that has gotten a foothold in the Cayuga Lake Inlet.
The law's intent is to protect the ecology of the navigable water bodies in the county by preventing the introduction of the invasive species.
James Balyszak, who is the Ithaca-based Hydrilla Program Manager through Cornell Cooperative Extension, says at this time the hydrilla infestation is limited to the Cayuga Inlet.
"No hydrilla has been found in Cayuga Lake, or any of the neighboring Finger Lakes (thankfully), and our eradication efforts in the Inlet are helping. In September of 2012, hydrilla was discovered in the Erie Canal in North Tonawanda (near Buffalo).This is not related to the Cayuga Inlet discovery, or the Finger Lakes area exactly, but it is a discovery in another part of New York State," he explains.
According to information provided by the Cornell Cooperative Extension, hydrilla can grow up to a foot a day, and forms a thick dense mat that will block sunlight, kill native plants, and reduces oxygen in the water, altering the fish habitat. Its growth can obstruct boating, swimming and fishing and block intakes at water treatment plants.
Among other things, the proposed law will prohibit the launch of a watercraft into a navigable body of water with any plant or animal or parts visible or attached to any part of the watercraft, including in live wells and bilges, the motor, rudder, anchor or other areas, including the trailer.
Warren, Tompkins and Schuyler County have adopted similar laws while Essex and Washington County are considering laws. In addition, the village of Lake Placid in Essex County and seven towns — Lake Pleasant in Hamilton County; Santa Clara, Brighton Harrietstown and Franklin in Franklin County; and North Elba and Schroon in Essex County — have all adopted laws. Two other towns in Herkimer and Oneida Counties are considering laws.
If convicted of violating the law, a person faces a fine of $250 or up to 15 days in jail.
When the legislature set the public hearing, District 2 Legislator Richard Willson objected, voting no, saying he thought the effort was a "feel good thing" about the lake, commenting that laws have never been considered to stop the spread of invasive species such as hogweed. Noting that the most frequent transport of seeds is through the wind and via birds, Willson said he doesn't feel a law like this can be enforced and he thinks the effort should be put into developing a plan for when the species do enter the area.
He said he feels effort should be put into education.
Elizabeth Newbold of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Yates County explained that research shows the hydrilla is transported by watercraft.
She also compared the proposed law to similar laws about transporting firewood within New York State, an effort to restrict the movement of non-native insects.
Balyszak says there is a myriad of printed materials from multiple conservation agencies regarding Hydrilla, its infestation and effects, and ways the citizens/boaters can identify, report, and prevent the spread of hydrilla and other invasives.
"During the 2012 season the Finger Lakes Institute managed the Boat Steward Program, which put trained individuals at boat launches on several of the Finger Lakes. These trained individuals helped to educate boaters on clean boating practices, the threat of hydrilla and other invasives, and provided free boat/trailer inspections to boaters (on a voluntary basis after boater consent)," he said, adding, "The Boat Steward Program was quite successful, and will be implemented again this year."
You can find more information, as well as numerical results of the Boat Steward Program at this link: http://flisteward.wordpress.com/
Banach introduced the law, and explained it is an effort to help protect the water inlet for the village of Penn Yan, which supplies water to about 1/3 of Yates County's households.
"Granted, it may be difficult to enforce, but it may keep some out," he said.
Mark Morris, who also represents District III, said the Keuka Lake Association and Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association are behind the efforts to try to reduce the impact of the invasive species.
The legislature's meeting begins at 1 p.m. April 8 in the legislative chambers.