It’s Got to Go Somewhere – AIS Disposal Stations in the Finger Lakes Region

By: Sam Beck-Andersen – Watercraft Steward Program Manager

Invasive Species Disposal Stations serve a number of purposes in the fight against the spread of aquatic invasive species. By utilizing strategic placement at high-priority boat launches, as well as strategic placement within those boat launches, Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Disposal Stations can increase involvement of launch-users in preventing the spread of AIS.

An AIS Disposal Station is meant to be placed at a boat launch to hold AIS that are found during watercraft inspections. Clearly identifying the purpose and goals of the boxes with signage developed by NY State allows for reduced confusion for boaters faced with the question of “What do I do with AIS that I pull off of my boat?” These boxes are highly durable and weather-resistant, ensuring a long-lasting location for the public disposal of Aquatic Invasive Species.

But these boxes serve more purposes than just providing a single, defined location for disposing of invasive species. AIS Disposal Stations also act as educational billboards at the exact point where AIS education is most important – the boat launch. Standardized signage placed on the boxes informs readers exactly how and when to use the boxes and what other precautions to follow while launching a watercraft that reduce the risk of spreading AIS. In addition to specific messaging about precautions, the inherent existence of the boxes at busy boat launches draws attention to the need for AIS control.

As part of two Watercraft Steward-related grants from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges (FLI) was tasked with building and installing AIS Disposal Stations around the Finger Lakes. With this funding, FLI Watercraft Steward Program (WSP) staff set out to build four AIS Disposal Stations around the Finger Lakes Region. This process took about three full days of picking up building supplies, assembling the boxes, and installing the boxes.

The FLI Watercraft Steward Program reviewed and studied a number of existing build-plans for AIS Disposal Boxes, but ultimately decided to combine elements of various plans to fit the budget of the build, and the tools and materials available for the project. We chose untreated cedar boards and fir posts as the primary construction materials. These materials provide high durability and weather resistance without the risk of leaching harmful chemicals used in typical pressure-treated lumber.

The first step in the process was to assemble the front and back panels. Luckily, a big-box hardware store in the area was able to make quick work of accurately cutting the cedar planks to size that hold the corner posts together.

WSP Coordinator Ryan Fordham fastening cedar planks to corner posts for a pair of front frame panels.
A pair of assembled panels – front panel on the left, and back panel on the right.

Once the front and back panels were assembled, cedar boards of the same length were used to connect the two panels, creating a bottomless box. Once the box was assembled, we moved on to install the membrane at the bottom of the box. This membrane inhibits plant growth under the box. The frame of this membrane also supports the contents of the box when in use, so that plant matter stays contained within the box. Sheets of galvanized fencing were left oversized to make a flange for easy, secure attachment to the interior of the box using heavy duty staples. The fencing frame also allows for a sturdier membrane to hold the contents of the box securely. Finally, a two-layer sheet of landscaping fabric was cut to size and placed over the fencing, and stapled into the interior of the box.

Ryan Fordham cutting and bending the wire fencing into a flange.
Ryan Fordham cutting landscape matting to size.

Once the boxes were completely assembled, it was time to install the boxes at their homes! This process involved a few more steps. At the launch site, we found a flat location to set the box where it would be 1) easily accessible to boaters before and after launching their boats, and 2) in plain sight to a boater as they enter the launch location. After the box was placed, it was filled with about 200 lbs of mixed gravel. This gravel ensures good drainage in the box that will deter rot and stress to the cedar boards, and also acts as a weight to keep the box stationary. Finally, we secured the provided signage to the back panel of the box.


WSP Coordinators Shanty Hawke and Ryan Fordham fill the Disposal Station with mixed gravel.
WSP Coordinators Shanty Hawke and Ryan Fordham installing the provided signage to the rear panel of the Disposal Station.

And there you have it!

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Throughout the summer, WSP Staff placed four AIS Disposal Stations at launches around the Finger Lakes. We chose launch locations based on boater traffic at the launch, amount or lack of existing signage present on site, potential visibility, proximity to high-priority infestations, and other criteria. The Port of Rochester, the Erie Canal Launch in Fairport, and Long Point State Park were chosen as locations because of their close proximity to high-risk AIS (Hydrilla near Long Point State Park), and boating locations with other high-risk AIS (Erie Canal and Lake Ontario). The Geneva location was chosen due to a lack of existing signage, and high visibility of the box as it is located on a well-used running walking trail along Seneca Lake in Geneva.

Take a look  at our AIS Disposal Station Locations page to see a map of what other launches around the Finger Lakes Region have functioning stations: AIS Disposal Box Locations





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