O’Mara says first round of grants through new invasive species program benefits local efforts ~ O’Mara, colleagues fought for investment in new state budget

May 02, 2016

Senator O'Mara has led efforts to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species locally and statewide.

The uncontrolled spread of aquatic invasive species like Hydrilla and Eurasian water milfoil would devastate regional tourism economies and cost local communities hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

Elmira, N.Y., May 2—State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats), chairman of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, today said that the Keuka Lake Association and Cornell University are among 24 organizations statewide that will share approximately $2 million in the first round of funding through a new state grant program created as part of this year’s state budget to assist new, enhanced efforts to combat aquatic invasive species by focusing on boater awareness and education.

The new invasive species grants, which O’Mara and his colleagues in the Senate Majority prioritized during this year’s budget negotiations, will go to municipalities, not-for-profits and higher educational programs focusing on the uniform training of boat stewards statewide, the placement of boat stewards, and the installation of decontamination stations.  The grants will be provided through the state’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF).

“The uncontrolled spread of aquatic invasive species like Hydrilla and Eurasian water milfoil would devastate regional tourism economies and cost local communities hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs,” said O’Mara.  “We’ve appreciated the hard work of local leaders and concerned citizens throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and statewide, to protect our waterways and secure their quality and economic potential for generations to come.  And we’re grateful to concerned boaters and outdoor industry leaders like Cabela’s and Bass Pro for their efforts as a first line of defense against the spread of aquatic invasive species.  We’re hopeful that this stepped-up state assistance and investment, and other ongoing efforts, will continue to make a difference.”

The 24 projects being awarded the first grants through the New York Aquatic Invasive Species Spread Prevention Grant Program focus on expanding and strengthening boat steward programs  statewide.  Boat stewards work to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species by delivering spread prevention education and outreach, conducting courtesy boat and trailer inspections, and showing boaters how to inspect and remove plants and organisms from their boats, trailers and other equipment.

As part of the first round of funding, O’Mara said that the Keuka Lake Association will receive a $100,000 Education/Outreach grant, and Cornell University will receive a $100,000 grant for Steward Training.

New York State is home to more than 7,600 freshwater lakes, ponds and reservoirs, as well as 70,000 miles of rivers, brooks and streams.  Consequently, O’Mara said, the state is particularly at-risk to the introduction of aquatic invasive species.