This column was in the Berkshire Eagle on October 7, 2010
Lewis C. Cuyler
Bill will protect our lakes
‘ It is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease,” State Sen. Benjamin Downing told about 30 people last Saturday ( Oct. 1) at a workshop at Berkshire Community College as he urged support for a bill he has sponsored to protect the state’s lakes and ponds from aquatic nuisances. The workshop was co-sponsored by the Lakes and Ponds Association of Western Massachusetts (LAPA) and the Environmental Science Department of BCC.
The Senate approved the bill on May 12, he said, and it has since languished in the House Ways and Means Committee.
“This is not a complex bill,” he said, “Its goal is to prevent the spread of aquatic, invasive species throughout the commonwealth’s freshwater inland lakes and ponds.”
The bill, he said, would prohibit launching boats that had been in contaminated lakes and ponds into the state’s uncontaminated fresh water lakes and ponds, unless the boat’s owner could show that the vessel had been de-contaminated. He said his bill responds to lake issues in Berkshire County, particularly the spread of the invasive milfoil weed and the discovery of Zebra Mussels in Laurel Lake in Lee. Both are known as “invasive’’ which means that if lake users and governing bodies ignore their presence, the lakes degrade and eventually become unnavigable because the invasive species take over and destroy native lake life.
In the past few years, there has been ample evidence that invasive species hitchhike from lake to lake by attaching themselves to boat hulls. Appropriate boat washing can remove them.
Downing’s bill has the support of the governor, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs as well as the state Department of Conservation and Recreation.
“If we want to fix things with our lakes, then we have to be engaged,” he told attendees at LAPA’s 13th annual workshop on lake issues and management strategies. “This means that if you want to get this passed, you have reach out to your legislators and tell them that ‘This is what we need.’ ” He said that the bill could be passed in the current legislative session and become effective this year, “ but without public pressure, it doesn’t take much to slow things down in the legislature to a crawl.”
Specifically, Downing’s bill defines aquatic nuisances as “undesirable or excessive substances or populations that interfere with the recreational or ecological potential of a body of water or interfere with the natural resources thereof.” If passed, his bill would: — Create an aquatic nuisance control program in concert with municipalities and local organizations to respond to aquatic nuisance complaints, establish programs to combat lake destroying aquatic species and to seek grants to help towns and cities establish programs; — Define aquatic nuisances as “undesirable substances or populations that interfere with the recreational or ecological potential of a body of water.”
— Would authorize state agencies to take all the legal actions necessary to “ study, quarantine and eradicate aquatic nuisances.” His bill also calls for fines for violations found by the Massachusetts Environmental Police. “ The discovery of Zebra Mussels in Laurel Lake in Lee two years ago makes this bill timely,’’ he said. He urged the those attending, as well as all others interested, to call House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Brian Dempsey and House Speaker Robert DeLeo to place his bill on the House agenda for debate.
“ This bill could become law this year,” he said. “ But at this point we need pressure from constituents and lake advocates.”
Lewis C. Cuyler is a retired Eagle business editor.