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Grant funding saves lake stewardship program

TICONDEROGA - The Lake George Association has been awarded a $25,000 grant from the Lake Champlain Basin Program for the 2011 Lake Steward program on Lake George.

"We are relieved to receive early partial funding for this essential program, as emergency funding was required to run the program in 2010," said Walt Lender of Ticonderoga, LGA executive director.

In earlier years the LGA has received funds from New York State through the Lake George Watershed Coalition to run this prevention program, but state budget cutbacks have made future funding unpredictable.

"Without preventative measures like the Lake Steward program, Lake George could suffer the kind of devastating impact, both ecologically and economically, that we've seen in other lakes," Lender said.

The Lake Steward Program provides invasive species education and spread prevention. Lake Stewards are trained and hired in early summer, then stationed at multiple boat launches around Lake George to educate boaters about the threats of aquatic invasive species, such as Eurasian watermilfoil, zebra mussels, curly-leaf pondweed, and most recently, the Asian clam.

In addition, stewards help stop the introduction and transport of invasive species via boats and trailers by conducting visual inspections and removing and identifying any plant or animal material found.

Stewards also keep data on the body of water most recently visited prior to the Lake George launch, and whether spread prevention steps were taken prior to launch. Stewards can also inspect bait buckets and educate boaters about New York State's new baitfish and firewood regulations.

The Lake Steward program has helped keep water chestnut from spreading to Lake George. Lake stewards found water chestnut on four boats about to enter Lake George in 2008, on seven boats in 2009 and on five boats in 2010. The program also helps prevent the spread of alewives within and beyond the Lake Champlain Basin.

In 2009, lake stewards inspected close to 4,000 boats entering or leaving Lake George from May through August. Despite a scaled-back program in 2010, stewards inspected 2,538 boats and removed 56 invasive specimens.

"The Lake George Lake Steward Program is a critical part of protecting the water quality of Lake George and preventing the spread of invasive species between waterbodies throughout the Lake Champlain Basin and the Northeast," Lender said.

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