Taking Watercraft Inspections to the Next Level – Decontamination at Conesus Lake

By: Sarah Powers, Watercraft Steward Program Coordinator (Eastern FLX).

Hello from Conesus Lake! This is Sarah Powers, the Eastern Watercraft Steward Program (WSP) Coordinator for the 2017 season, SUNY Cortland (B.S., 2014) and SUNY ESF (M.S., 2017) graduate. I wanted to update you all on the Watercraft Steward Program so far. All of the Stewards have been working hard in the battle against Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS)! We have had a great start of the season, with a total of 15 stewards stationed at 14 launches throughout the Finger Lakes. Thank you to all of the stewards!

Landa Decontamination Unit

Stewards stationed at Conesus, Hemlock, and Canadice Lakes have been busy expanding their knowledge in invasive species removal strategies. On Wednesday May 31, 2017 thestewards, along with WSP management staff participated in a training to learn how to use the decontamination (decon) station located at the Conesus Lake State Marine Park. This unit, originally purchased through a NYSDEC grant, is now operated and monitored by the Conesus Lake Association in conjunction with the Finger Lakes Institute and Cornell Cooperative Extension.

What is a decontamination station you ask? That is a great question! It is essentially a high temperature pressure washer. The decon station is used to clean off boats that have invasive plants in hard to reach areas, or boats that might be carrying the larval form of Zebra and Quaggua Mussels (veligers), or other species that are able to survive and propagate from microscopic fragments. Veligers and microscopic plant fragments are transported by water and can be found in boat motors, live wells, bilges, and transom wells. Without proper removal efforts such as cleaning, draining, and drying your boat ,in addition to decontamination with hot water, you risk introducing invasive species into a new lake. Zebra mussels can live out of water for 30 days! Decon stations help to remove and kill invasive species by high pressure and hot water (120°F to 140°F), and will not damage your boat… just the invasive plants and organisms on your boat.

Zebra mussel veligers, only small fractions of a centimeter, can remain reproductively viable for up to 30 days!

Much like the typical WSP inspections, decontamination procedures are strictly voluntary. Stewards will be targeting boats that have recently been operated in contaminated waters, and that have not been subjected to the “Clean, Drain, Dry” procedures. After setting up the machine and equipping the proper safety gear, the steward will begin the decontamination at the target vessel’s bow, working towards the rear of the vessel. Stewards ready their pressure washer wand, targeting hard to reach areas of the boat and trailer such as the bunk pads and trailer axles. The high pressure, high temperature water is focused on plant or animal matter for several seconds and is then moved on to the rest of the boat. For interior decontaminations of live wells, a low-pressure hose attachment is used, and the temperature is decreased in order to keep boat components safe from high temperatures that could potentially weaken softer plastic. Using the hose attachment, stewards gain access to live wells with the help of the boaters, and fill those live wells to the high water mark.

Twenty three decontamination stations are currently being operated in the Adirondacks through the Adirondack Watershed Institute. The decontamination station at Conesus Lake State Marine Park is the first operating one of its kind in the Finger Lakes Region. If the Conesus lake steward thinks that a boat might be carrying invasive organisms they will suggest a decontamination. It is the best way make sure that invasive micro-organisms are not going to be introduced into Conesus Lake.


The Western FLI stewards are excited to help battle invasive species by using this really effective machine! If you have questions about this process, please ask a steward. They are the experts!


Photo Credits: Sarah Powers, Lisa Cleckner, Sam Beck-Andersen, Gene Bolster, wildlife.cal.gov
Edited and published by Sam Beck-Andersen

The Beginning of the 2017 Steward Season

.By Evan Genay – Watercraft Steward Program Coordinator (Western FLX)

Group photo at the Geneva City Public Boat Launch

Greetings readers! This is Evan Genay, Program Coordinator for the Finger Lake Institute’s Watercraft Steward Program, and Environmental Resources Engineering student at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. The Finger Lakes Institute’s Watercraft Steward Program launched its sixth season with a two-day training for new and returning stewards on May 23 and 24. It was an excellent opportunity for the WSP Program Coordinator to meet all of the awesome stewards and other invasive species control folks. WSP Program Manager Sam Beck-Andersen and a number of others from the Finger Lakes Institute and broader Finger Lakes invasive species control community conducted and contributed to the training. Over twenty people were in attendance, including Finger Lakes Institute stewards, Keuka Lake stewards, Onondaga Lake managers, and stewards from Wayne County.

Dr. Lisa Cleckner, director of the Finger Lakes Institute, kicked off training with an introduction to the Finger Lakes Institute, its many current and past projects, and the scope of the WSP. Next, former steward and inspection veteran Kim McGarry led the stewards on a mock inspection of a boat and provided insight into the nuances of boat inspection. The Finger Lakes PRISM was represented in full force by Hilary Mosher.

Patty Wakefield-Brown and Kate Des Jardin introduced stewards to other projects the Finger Lakes Institute is working on, including Hydrilla eradication, water chestnut pulls, and community outreach. We are all excited to participate in water chestnut pulls, which are events during which water chestnut is removed by hand by volunteers working in canoes and kayaks.   After Sam led the group through the steward Standard Operating Procedures, the day wrapped up with a boat inspection at Canandaigua Lake State Marine Park.

WSP Manager Sam Beck-Andersen demonstrates a mock-boat inspection for the training participants.

The stewards watched as Sam successfully inspected the boat and filled out a data sheet. Thankfully, the boat was very clean, likely because it belongs to a FLI employee’s family member! Special thanks are owed to Steve Nagel and his grandfather for bringing their boat to the launch so that it could be inspected.

WSP Manager Sam Beck-Andersen gives a tour of Roy’s Marina, where stewards could observe a different kind of boat launch while identifying different boat types.

The second day began at Roy’s Marina, a few miles south of the FLI on Seneca Lake. At the Marina, Sam led the stewards on a tour of the docked boats to aid in boat identification and accurate data collection.  Sam continued the training back at the Institute, educating stewards on the new regulations in New York State regarding aquatic invasive species and the Clean, Drain, and Dry Initiative. The Aquatic Invasive Species Spread Prevention regulation, or 6 NYCRR Part 576 requires that “reasonable precautions” be taken to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. This includes cleaning, draining, and drying watercraft and floating docks before and after placing them in public bodies of water. Infractions of this regulation can result in fines of up to $1,000 (yikes!) for multiple infractions. Although the stewards are educators, not enforcers, it is helpful to be aware of the current regulations. Next, the partners of the FLI Watercraft Steward Prorgram—including Lindsay McMillan of Canandaigua Lake Watershed Association (CLWA) and Anna Deats from Cornell Cooperative Extension/Conesus Lake Association—introduced themselves and the relationship their organizations have with the steward program. Finally, Bob Johnson, Professor Emeritus from Cornell University, and his staff led the stewards on an insightful lecture/ hands-on identification workshop.

Bob Johnson and his assistants demonstrate how to identify an array of different aquatic invasive species.

Bob’s vast knowledge of aquatic species will undoubtedly help stewards to identify the species that are discovered on boats. Bob and his crew brought a wide range of native and invasive species along including various pondweeds, the infamous Hydrilla (which was closely watched during the training to prevent its escape), water milfoils, and lake grasses. Coming into the training, I was unable to distinguish a naiad from a milfoil, but after some practice, I became an aquatic plant species expert.

Overall, the training was incredibly effective and the stewards gained a wealth of knowledge that will help make this one of the best seasons of the program yet. Thank you to all the stewards, facilitators, and partners who helped to make this training successful. Although the 24th marked the last official day of training for the stewards, continuing education will proceed throughout the summer. Best of luck to all of the new 2017 stewards, and as a Program Coordinator for the stewards on the Western Finger Lakes, I look forward to helping to preserve the natural beauty of these ecosystems. We have a stellar team and together we can combat aquatic hitchhikers!

We are hiring for the 2017 season!

We are accepting applications for the 2017 Finger Lakes Watercraft Steward Program. More information can be found below and please contact Program Manager Sam Beck-Andersen if you have any questions.

The Watercraft Stewards will be responsible for public outreach and education on slowing and preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species. Under the supervision of Finger Lakes Institute (FLI) at Hobart and William Smith Colleges staff, Watercraft Stewards will offer watercraft inspections to boaters at public launches and provide boaters with information about aquatic invasive species and protocol for preventing their spread. Watercraft inspections entail removing plants and other organic material from boats and trailers and identifying aquatic invasive species. Watercraft Stewards will collect daily data from their interactions with boaters. Weekly progress reports and data entry will be required that summarize this information. Training will be provided.

A full job description can be found here: 2017 Watercraft Steward job announcement


Stewards Pull Together Against AIS!

by Kirsten Goranowski, FLI Watercraft Steward Program Assistant

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Kirsten Goranowski, FLI Watercraft Steward Program Assistant
Kirsten Goranowski, FLI Watercraft Steward Program Assistant

The Finger Lakes Institute Watercraft Stewards got their hands a little dirty on Wednesday August 14th, at the Montezuma Audubon Center (MAC) in Savannah, NY. Located on Route 89, the Montezuma Audubon Center is a state-owned facility on 198 acres of land that is operated through an agreement between the NYSDEC and the National Audubon Society. It is a part of the Montezuma Wetlands Complex, which is a globally significant bird area that supports rest areas during migration, raising young and during breeding.

As part of their continued training and education through the Finger Lakes Institute Watercraft Steward Program, the stewards had the opportunity to physically handle Water Chestnut (Trapa natans) and help with Montezuma’s continued eradication efforts against this aquatic invasive plant. Venturing out into canoes, the Watercraft Stewards paddled the Seneca River around Howland’s Island and Haiti Island helping to remove approximately 4,800 pounds of Water Chestnut. They worked alongside staff members Wildlife Biologist Scott Stipetich, Montezuma Audubon Center Education Manager Chris Lajewski, and 19 other volunteers.

Introduced into the Finger Lakes region in the 50’s, hand-pulling volunteer efforts such as this one have proved to greatly reduce the amount of Water Chestnut across the Montezuma Wetlands Complex. If not controlled and maintained, invasive plants such as Water Chestnut have the ability to choke out waterways decreasing food and shelter availability for wildlife, and even hindering recreational activities including swimming, fishing, and boating.

This event was part of MARSH, Montezuma Alliance for the Restoration of Species & Habitats, a volunteer program through the Montezuma Wetlands Complex Project that is dedicated to controlling invasive species. It strives to work towards increasing native species, as invasive species are less beneficial and more harmful to Montezuma habitats.

Are you interested in getting involved and protecting Montezuma’s Wetlands Complex? These workdays are free and open to the public, but plan on getting a little dirty! View the following link for their upcoming volunteer events, and be sure to sign up in advance! There is plenty to do, so get involved!

For information about the Montezuma Audubon Center and their upcoming education programs, visit http://ny.audubon.org/montezuma.

Engaging Diverse Audiences to Prevent AIS

by Alex Gatch, FLI 2013 Watercraft Steward

Alex Gatch
Alex Gatch

Community outreach is one of the most important aspects of the Steward program. Collecting and disposing of samples is a necessary part of the job, however, enlightening and teaching the community about invasive species plays just as an important role. I have had the opportunity to serve in two community outreach events this summer. These included the Finger Lakes International Dragon Boat Festival and the Celebrate Cayuga Lake Event at the  Ithaca Farmers Market, of which both were held on Cayuga Lake.

The FL International Dragon Boat Festival on Cayuga Lake is a festival in which dragon boats are raced through the canal by local and non-local paddle teams. The eight dragon boats that were rented and used in the race came from Philadelphia. Thus, not being “native” boats, myself and fellow steward Kristen, were given the task to inspect the boats as they were taken from their trailer and launched into the Cayuga Inlet. The boats ended up being clean of any invasive species. While we found nothing of concern on or in the dragon boats, it was still a valuable experience to inform the surrounding crowd, as well as the company who supplied the boats, as to what we were doing and why it was important.

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The Celebrate Cayuga Lake Event at the Ithaca Farmers Market offered a bit of a different experience. At the event, FLI WSP Intern Hilary Gove and I were able to provide community outreach by way of posters, informational handouts, and by conversations. Hilary and I talked to the community about various invasive species, how to prevent them from spreading, and how to identify them. Talking to locals on the canal that holds the world’s worst invasive (Hydrilla), was time well spent. Locals seemed to have abundant knowledge about the invasives and were motivated to get involved.

Though the FLI Watersteward Program has served as a summer job for me, it was also a fundamental step in my education and in the understanding of the relationship between the environment and the community. Without the natural environment, the quality of our community would be hindered. Thus, through community outreach and engagement, we as Water craft Stewards are able to provide a critical link between the community and the environment.

Hydrilla in Cayuga Lake Inlet- Two Year Anniversary

by Kirsten Goranowski, FLI Watercraft Steward Program Assistant

Kirsten Goranowski, FLI Watercraft Steward Program Assistant
Kirsten Goranowski, FLI Watercraft Steward Program Assistant

This mid-August marks the two-year anniversary of the Hydrilla verticillata detection in the Cayuga Lake Inlet by a staff member of the Cayuga Lake Floating Classroom (Cornell Cooperative Extension Invasive Species Program, 2012). The Cayuga Lake Inlet is located between Treman State Marine Park and the Route 89 Bridge in Ithaca, New York.

For those of you who are are unfamiliar with Hydrilla verticillata, or commonly known as ‘hydrilla,’ this is an extremely aggressive aquatic invasive that is considered to be one of the world’s worst invasive species. In fact, infestations are capable of altering the physical and chemical characteristics of lakes, as it causes impacts such as producing in extremely thick mats that obstruct recreation, block sunlight for native plants, and decrease waterfowl feeding areas (Cornell Cooperative Extension Invasive Species Program, 2012). Figure 1 illustrates a close up look at this extremely hardy aquatic invasive plant that makes recreation in a waterbody nearly impossible once it has become established. Try swimming through that! Gross!

Figure 1: Taken from www.nyis.org. Close-up of Hydrilla. Photo: Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, Bugwood.org
Figure 1: Taken from http://www.nyis.org. Close-up of Hydrilla. Photo: Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, Bugwood.org

Native to Southeast Asia, hydrilla was first imported into the United States as an aquarium plant, which was later believed to have been released into the wild through an aquarium dump during the 1950’s in Florida (Cornell Cooperative Extension Invasive Species Program, 2012). Hydrilla has been listed as a noxious weed since 1979 on the USDA’s Federal Noxious Weed List and is illegal to sell/buy in the United States (Menninger, 2011).

Soon after its discovery in 2011, the Hydrilla Task Force formed to research the risks and possible responses of this invasive, involve agencies at all levels of government and interested parties, make recommendations to those that could carry out action, and to provide extensive outreach and education in the Cayuga Lake Watershed. A follow up survey in late August 2011 by aquatic biologist Robert Johnson found roughly 6-8 acres of dense hydrilla mats located in high boat traffic areas of the Cayuga Inlet (Menninger, 2011).

This location represented a concern for the potential of increasing the spread of Hydrilla due to recreational disturbance, as fragments are easily caught on boat propellers and further dispersed. In Fighting Hydrilla in Cayuga Inlet 2011, the City of Ithaca declared an emergency and the decision to use herbicides was not made lightly (Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County). The Inlet remained closed for about two weeks to conduct the October 2011 herbicide application of Endothall, as well as reduce disturbance by boat traffic. Use of the Inlet for drinking water was restricted for 14 days within 600 feet of the application site. Endothall levels were continually monitored until they were undetectable by the Tompkins County Department of Health as well as the City of Ithaca.

With its first year, it was found that the Endothall application, which was applied 4 different times, killed approximately 95% of the plants biomass above the soil level (which is very good). This bought some time as the Hydrilla Task Force continued to meet throughout the winter months as they drafted an initial 2012 Hydrilla Work Plan. The 2011 herbicide proved to be successful, so they continued a reapplication of Endothall on June 26th, 2012. To increase the effectiveness of eradication in the second year, another herbicide known as Fluridone was applied from July 12th to October 31st in 2012 at very low levels. This additional herbicide assisted in hindering plant growth by killing the roots and tubers. Combined with these efforts, trained volunteers and professionals helped monitor the infestation for any new populations before, during and after these applications.

Figure 2: Invasion Curve (image from Southwest Montana Science Partnership's Module on Plants and Pollinators
Figure 2: Invasion Curve (image from Southwest Montana Science Partnership’s Module on Plants and Pollinators

When infestations such as these are analyzed for action, the Invasion Curve is used by organizations to determine the most sensible action. This Invasion Curve (Figure 2) illustrates introduction of an invasive plant, animal, or insect and its feasibility of eradication over time. As you can see, the longer an invasive species is established over time the eradication feasibility continues to decrease. Fortunately, this hydrilla infestation was detected early enough where eradication was still possible and feasible. There was no sign of Hydrilla in the south end of Cayuga Lake, as the infestation just reached to the mouth of the Inlet (Menninger, 2011).

This past July 16th 2013 was the first Endothall treatment of the 2013 season and was applied in the Cayuga Inlet, the Flood Control Channel, the Treman Marina, and the lower reaches of Cascadilla and Six Mile Creeks. After 24 hours they reopened the Cayuga Inlet on July 17th, 2013 at 8 am, and the first water quality results have since been published. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Tompkins County Soil and Water Conservation District, Tompkins County Health Department, and the Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility will continue to work together in the Enthodall Water Quality Monitoring over the next few weeks. Be sure to sign up and receive hydrilla email updates if you are interested.

So, although this eradication is claimed to be still feasible, how much did this treatment cost you may ask? The Endothall treatment this year was contracted to cost $104,140, and the proposed herbicide Fluridone is contracted to cost between $234,267 and $309,109 according to James Balyszak, Program Manager of the Hydrilla Task Force. The expenses for the treatments will be covered by a mix of federal and state funding. He said that these estimated numbers are high due to the inlet’s flow that disperses the herbicide more quickly (Casler, 2013). However, left untreated the problem would cost even more.

So How Can You Help?
It is extremely important to become part of the solution by taking the necessary precautions in Cleaning, Draining, and Drying your boat! Also, properly dispose of water weeds away from the watershed on dry land to prevent fragments or seeds making their way back into the lake.

You should also become familiar with the characteristics of Hydrilla, and report Hydrilla suspects to the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, and to attend future Hydrilla events and volunteer opportunities!

Lastly, strike up a conversation with your local FLI Watercraft Steward! Visit Alex who is working this summer at Taughannock Falls State Park and Allen Treman Marine State Park boat launches to help stop the spread of aquatic invasive species such as Hydrilla!

Upcoming Hydrilla Trainings-
Aquatic Invasive Species Trainings:
The Cayuga County Department of Planning and Economic Development along with Watershed Assessment Associates, LLC and the Finger Lakes Institute will be holding five aquatic invasive species identification training workshops for the public across the Finger Lakes in July. These trainings are free, open to the public, watershed associations, watershed officials and agency personnel. Participants will learn how to identify invasive aquatic plants and animals through presentations and hands-on activities. They will also learn what to do if they find a species of concern. Details

  • July 22nd: 6 pm, Cayuga Lake Watershed Network Offices, 2nd Floor, Zabriskie Hall, Aurora
  • July 23rd: 1 pm, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, Meeting Room A, Ithaca
  • July 23rd: 6 pm, Finger Lakes Institute, Geneva
  • July 24th: 10 am, Yates County Office Building- Auditorium, Penn Yan
  • July 24th: 6 pm, First Presbyterian Church, Skaneateles

Hydrilla Hunt Webinar: On Friday, July 26 The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the New York Federation of Lake Associations (NYSFOLA) will present a webinar to instruct volunteers on the skills needed to identify Hydrilla verticillata (hydrilla). The webinar will kick off the Hydrilla Hunt on Friday, July 26, at 2:00 pm. Participants can join the webinar. Sign in with your name and email.  The password is Hydri11a (using the number 1 not the letter l).

Works Cited
Casler, A. (2013, July 7). Problematic plant threatens lakes. Democrat and Chronicle , p. 1b & 7b.

Cornell Cooperative Extension Invasive Species Program. (2012, October 3). Hydrilla. Retrieved July 10, 2013, from The New York Invasive Species Clearinghouse: http://www.nyis.info/?action=invasive_detail&id=16

Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County. (n.d.). Herbicides In Use. Retrieved from Cornell Cooperative Extension: http://ccetompkins.org/environment/invasive-species/herbicides-use

Menninger, H. (2011). Hydrilla verticillata in the Cayuga Inlet: A science-based review to guide management actions. NY Invasive Species Research Institute, Cornell University, 1-11. Ithaca, NY, USA. Retrieved from The New.

Summer Survey To Show Public Familiarity with AIS

by Sarah DePillo, FLI Watercraft Steward Program Intern

Sarah DePillo WS '14
Sarah DePillo WS ’14

This summer marks my second season working with the Finger Lakes Institute on their remarkably successful Watercraft Steward Program. The Watercraft Steward Program, which has recently kicked off for the summer, places trained stewards at boat launches throughout the Finger Lakes region and on the southern shore of Lake Ontario in an effort to educate boaters on aquatic invasive species issues and prevent the spread of invasive species by physically removing them from boats.

As an educational efficacy assessor for the Watercraft Steward Program, I will be spending this summer designing and administering a survey at several of the boat launches both on weekdays and weekends during the month of July. The survey is intended to measure public perceptions, attitudes towards, and knowledge of invasive species, as well as amenability and support for various management techniques and policy approaches for the overall issue of aquatic invasive species.

Some of the things that the survey is asking are attempting to understand whether the person is familiar with invasive species issues. If they are, where they are getting their information, and what their motivations are for preserving the well-being of the lakes? The survey is also asking questions regarding specific invasive species management techniques, such as transport laws that require boats to be inspected and fines for non-compliant boaters; cleaning stations at launches; the use of herbicides; and more. The survey aims to understand where the public stands on some of these issues and potential actions to resolve them.

Any person who is approached at a boat launch and asked to complete the survey may voluntarily do so as long as they are of 18 years of age. All participants will be greatly appreciated for contributing to our research, and all opinions are valued. Hopefully, the information collected about the users of Finger Lakes boat launches will be valuable both to improve the efficacy of our own Watercraft Steward Program, and also to inform local policy makers and stakeholders of the public opinion and level of involvement or interest regarding these issues.

These are our waterbodies to preserve and protect; help us to understand how we can continue to do so by indicating what you are and are not willing to support in terms of solutions!