By: Jason D. Reimers, Esq.
Gov. Maggie Hassan has declared June 2016 to be Aquatic Invasive Species Awareness Month.
Just to remind you of how invasive species can harm water quality, property values, tourism, swimming, and boating, milfoil can be spread by just a few-inch piece and then grow up to 15 feet, choking off acres of native species and making it terrible to swim.
The Asian clam is sharp and will cut your feet. Many invasive species, such as the Asian clam, Chinese mystery snail, and the spiny water flea can spread unseen as microscopic larvae in drops of water. This is why it is not enough to simply remove visible vegetation hanging from your boat’s motor or trailer.
Hassan signed into law a bill that prohibits the negligent transport of aquatic plants and aquatic weeds. This law specifically applies to boaters and is applicable to boats on rivers, lakes, and ponds.
This is what the new law requires of boaters: “When leaving waters of the state, a person shall drain his or her boat and other water-related equipment that holds water, including live wells and bilges. Drain plugs, bailers, valves, or other devices used to control the draining of water from ballast tanks, bilges, and live wells shall be removed or opened while transporting boats and other water-related equipment, if the vessel is so equipped.” The failure to perform these tasks equates to negligence under the law.
The NH Lakes Association was a major proponent of the new law (disclaimer: I am on the board of directors of the NH Lakes Association). The NH Lakes Association has long urged boaters to clean, drain and dry boats and trailers before and after boating. This is the best way to avoid accidentally infesting a waterbody with an invasive species.
Clean off any plants, animals, mud, and other debris from your boat, trailer, and recreational gear. Then drain your boat and trailer away from the water. Then dry anything that came in contact with the water.
Five days of drying is best to kill any invasive species that were hoping to use your boat and trailer to hitchhike to your next aquatic destination.
Although the law provides for a fine of $50 for the first offense, $100 for a second offense, and $250 for a third offense, the primary emphasis of the new law is not to fine negligent boaters but to raise awareness.
Another major effort to educate the public is the NH Lakes Association’s Lake Host Program. Lake hosts are currently stationed at 104 of the most highly used boat ramps throughout the state.
The Lake Host program is in its 15th year, and this year will have approximately 800 lake hosts. Since the program began, Lake hosts have performed 761,735 courtesy boat inspections and captured 1,515 pieces of hitchhiking invasive plants and animals before they were able to infest additional waterbodies.
Lake hosts do not have the authority to stop anyone from putting their boat in the water, but that has not been a limitation on the program’s effectiveness. Boaters have been extremely receptive to learning about the ways that they might inadvertently spread something like milfoil or the Asian clam. It should go without saying that boaters care deeply about water quality, but we all need to be made aware of new things.
Jason Reimers is a member of the Board of Directors of the New Hampshire Lakes Association.
This article was originally published in The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript on June 27, 2016.