ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Invasive animal and plant species threaten the natural balance of the Adirondack Park – or any ecosystem. On Monday, the Department of Environmental Conservation announced a $13.24 million move to protect the Adirondack watershed.

The deal at hand is a five-year partnership between the state and the Adirondack Watershed Institute (AWI), run by Paul Smith’s College. The AWI is set to become the next pair of hands behind the wheel of the Adirondack Park Watercraft Inspection Steward Program (WISP), which has inspected more than half a million boats since its inception. The program’s goal is to keep unwanted lifeforms from invading Adirondack lakes and streams.

“This important partnership with the DEC has led to measurable changes in our region over the past five years, including more boaters engaging in ‘clean-drain-dry’ practices, reduced threats of invasive species from the direct removal of non-native plants and animals from watercraft, and over 100 well-paying, seasonal jobs annually,” said Bill Brosseau, AWI’s Director of Stewardship and Education Program. “We are looking forward to strengthening this work and achieving even greater results in the next five years.”

In those years, the program has plucked zebra mussels, water fleas, Eurasian watermilfoil, hydrilla, and curly leaf pond weed from boats. The presence of invasive plants and animals can create huge problems for what already lives there. Eurasian watermilfoil has been known to stop sunlight from reaching lakebed-level vegetation, and has become a point of contention between groups on Lake George. Hydrilla costs the state nearly $500,000 per year to control and manage in Cayuga Lake and Spencer Pond.

The new agreement will last for the next five years, and is funded by the state Environmental Protection Fund. Since 2015, WISP has worked at nearly 60 locations around the Adirondacks, operating around 29 decontamination stations to keep the water safe. Stations also work as educational sites, where watercraft operators who don’t know about the threat of invasive species can go to become all the wiser.

“Governor Kathy Hochul’s sustained investments in safeguarding New York’s irreplaceable natural resources are bolstering aquatic habitat protections in the Adirondack Park and helping prevent the spread of invasive species,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “(WICKS) is one of DEC’s front lines of defense against invasive pests by engaging directly with boaters so visitors arrive at launches with their boats and trailers cleaned, drained, and dried to prevent the introduction of new invasive pests to Adirondack waterbodies. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the Adirondack Watershed Institute and the thousands of boaters enjoying the region’s waters.”