Lakes association to seek fines for boaters with invasive species

Union Leader Correspondent
November 22. 2015 10:03PM

Lake Host Janet Roswell of Meredith examines weeds collected from Meredith's Hesky Park Boat Ramp on Lake Winnipesaukee. (COURTESY)

GILFORD — The New Hampshire Lakes Association in January will ask the Legislature to change the language of a state law to more explicitly define invasive plants and animals and to levy fines on people who don’t follow the state’s guidelines for preventing them from coming to state water bodies.

The association has been crafting legislation, to “better safeguard our lakes from the further introduction and spread of aquatic invasive plants and animals,” said association president, Tom O’Brien.

“It’s not just variable milfoil and a few other nasty plants that we are concerned about, but also animals like zebra mussels, the spiny water flea, and Asian clams,” O’Brien said.

Invasive species like Eurasian milfoil and zebra mussels can “choke” lakes with their presence, and often kill off native plants and animals. Zebra mussels, which have been found in water bodies across the country, disrupt the ecosystems with their colonization, and damage harbors and waterways, ships and boats, and water treatment and power plants.

Zebra mussels have not yet been found in New Hampshire, but many New Hampshire lakes saw milfoil infestations for the first time last year, O’Brien said, including Pawtuckaway Lake in Nottingham, Turee Pond in Bow, and Beaver Lake in Derry.

“That’s not a good sign,” he said. “We have got to stop this spread. We have made a lot of progress but we must do more.”

Invasive species are generally spread to water bodies by boaters who bring boats to the Granite State after using them in infected lakes, rivers and ponds elsewhere. The state has had rules requiring boaters to clean the outside of their boats and trailers of any plant, plant part, or animal and to drain their boats upon leaving the water — the so-called “clean, drain, and dry” method.

“These provisions are relatively easy for boaters to comply with, but they need to be enforceable,” O’Brien said. “We need to up the ante.”

New Hampshire law RSA 487:16-b pertains to boaters who “knowingly, recklessly, or purposely” introduce an invasive plant. Under new language suggested by the association, such an act will be punishable by a fine of $50 for a first offense and $250 for any subsequent offense.

Other language to be introduced more explicitly defines the threats.

The state had 775 people — two-thirds of them volunteers — in its Lake Host program, in which lake hosts inspect boats with the help of boat owners as they come and go on state water bodies. But lake hosts only cover about 100 of the state’s more than 800 lakes, he said.


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