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!