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