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

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


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