by Kirsten Goranowski, FLI Watercraft Steward Program Assistant
2013 Watercraft Steward Program Update
With the smell of spring in our midst and the boating season upon us, Finger Lakes Institute staff have been gearing up for our second year of the Watercraft Steward Program. Last year proved to be a successful year for the newly implemented program, as we covered 7 of the eastern Finger Lakes (Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, Cayuga, Owasco, Skaneateles, and Otisco) and two southern Lake Ontario bays (Sodus Bay and Fair Haven.) This year, we hope to increase our coverage to all eleven Finger Lakes, and move our Southern Lake Ontario monitoring sights to Irondequoit Bay and Braddock Bay. However, the start of our program has been delayed.
Last year the FLI Watercraft Steward Program had been awarded funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and was able to initiate the program for steward training in May 2012. This year, our funding is currently held up with no known date for a contract. We received many outstanding applications for our steward positions so it is disappointing to have a delay. However, we remain hopeful that funding will be in place soon and that we can begin our training and steward program.
If you are new to our FLI Watercraft Steward Program (WSP), boaters are encouraged to learn more about aquatic invasive species (AIS) and the best preventative measures against their spread. Watercraft stewards are out on the launches over the summer interacting with the public, and stressing the importance of not transporting “Aquatic Hitchhikers” between bodies of water. Education and outreach programs like this one are extremely important, as they are the first line of defense against aquatic invasive species. With such valuable water resources around us, we must protect them for our future generations.
This past Wednesday, May 8th, it was announced that U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer recently launched a plan to create the first-ever early detection and rapid response (EDRR) grant program to increase the effectiveness of combating aquatic invasive species in new waterways. Senator Schumer’s press release states that there are currently only rapid response plans for agriculture invasive species; his bill will create a national response framework that allows multiple agencies to collaborate for invasive species that threaten our waterways. Senator Schumer stated, “For countless Upstate communities, rivers, lakes and waterways are the very lifeblood of the regional economy and central to their way of life; more must be done to respond to the myriad invasive species threats they now face.” Schumer went on to further explain in detail the economy and how it would be negatively impacted from invasive species if there were no further combined efforts.
In other news, Seneca Lake State Park has been awarded $40,000 from the New York Works Initiative, a state grant towards aiding the prevention of AIS. This funding will be used this summer and coming fall to support a project that will restore the large expanse of lawn at the park entrance into a thriving native plant ecosystem. The Finger Lakes Institute and Hobart and William Smith College students will collaborate to provide support for project initiation, assistance with plantings and seeding, and continuous management. More information can be found here. FLI Community Outreach Coordinator Sarah Meyer, explains, “The Finger Lakes Institute began partnering with Seneca Lake State Park in 2005, hosting our annual International Coastal Cleanup. This collaboration has continued with the park acting as a site to conduct research on fish and wildlife and ecological restoration, invasive species management and monitoring and environmental education.”
Collaborative efforts such these will help the Finger Lakes region increase the grasp on AIS before they have a choke-hold in and around our valuable waterways.
Please check the WSP blog frequently for newly released information regarding the status of our Watercraft Steward Program.
Questions regarding the FLI Watercraft Steward Program can be directed to program assistant Kirsten Goranowski at firstname.lastname@example.org.