2017 – authorized Vermont Aquatic Nuisance Species Law FAQs
What’s the skinny on this new law?
The 2017 Vermont Legislature enacted new aquatic nuisance species legislation which took effect June 8, 2017. The law, Act 67, addresses aquatic nuisance and invasive species spread prevention and transport, and strengthens existing laws. The full text of the act and updated Vermont aquatic nuisance species laws are available here.
Aquatic nuisance species versus aquatic invasive species…what’s the difference?
Vermont law defines an aquatic nuisance as “undesirable or excessive substances or populations that interfere with the recreational potential or aquatic habitat of a body of water, including rooted aquatic plants and animal and algal populations.”
Executive Order 13112, signed by President Clinton on February 3, 1999, established the National Invasive Species Council and defines an invasive species as “an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.”
What aquatic species are prohibited in Vermont?
Act 67 added four animals to the existing list of prohibited aquatic nuisance species: Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea), fishhook waterflea (Cercopagis pengoi), rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) and spiny waterflea (Bythotrephes longimanus). The transport of ANY aquatic plant or plant parts – invasive or not – as well as zebra and quagga mussels, asian clams, fishhook waterflea, rusty crayfish and spine water flea are prohibited. All six prohibited animal species are considered invasive.
In addition, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Market’s Noxious Weed Quarantine #3 prohibits the sale, movement, distribution, and in some cases, possession or cultivation of certain species of plants that have been recognized as invasive in Vermont or adjacent states. Many of these prohibited plant species are aquatic.
Are individuals now required to inspect their water-based equipment?
Any person transporting a vessel to or from a body of water is now required to visually inspect the vessel, the transport vehicle, trailer, and other equipment used, and remove any aquatic plants, aquatic plant parts, and other aquatic nuisance species. The act also now requires removal of drain plugs, bailers, valves, and all other devices designed to control the drainage of water from a vessel while transporting it. All draining of contained water must occur in a manner that avoids discharge into a water of the State.
What about watercraft inspection and decontamination stations, are they mandatory now?
Boat inspection and decontamination are mandatory at all authorized Vermont watercraft inspection stations, if: the inspection station is maintained where the vessel is entering or leaving the water; the inspection station is open; and an individual operating the inspection station identifies the vessel for decontamination. (Shadow Lake has an authorized Vermont watercraft inspection and decontamination station.)
What designates a Vermont watercraft inspection and decontamination station as authorized?
A lake association, a municipality or the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation can set up an authorized watercraft inspection station as long as a representative from the operating organization attends a training program developed by the Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. Beginning in 2018, Public Access Greeter Program trainings will cover information related to the new laws and the authority that watercraft inspectors now have. As long as a representative from your lake association or municipality attends a Greeter Program training, they can request and be awarded status as an authorized watercraft inspection station. A schedule of upcoming Public Access Greeter Program trainings will be listed on the VTDEC Public Access Greeter Program website.
Are any Vermont watercraft inspection and decontamination stations currently authorized?
Only those operated directly by VTDEC. (The Shadow Lake boat wash station is currently authorized to operate.) The first Public Access Greeter Trainings to include information on the new laws will be held in May of this year. Lake associations and municipalities will be able to receive authorization immediately afterwards.
Do transport violations carry penalties? What are the fine amounts?
As of July 2017, violators of Vermont’s aquatic nuisance species transport law (10 V.S.A. § 1454a-d) – transporting an aquatic plant, aquatic plant part or aquatic nuisance species, not inspecting for aquatic nuisance species, failure to have vessel inspected/decontaminated, or failure to drain a vessel – could be subject to fines of up to $1,197 (combined fine and fees). Thanks to Act 67, law enforcement officers now have the authorization to issue Judicial Bureau civil violation complaints, or tickets, for transport law violations. The waiver penalty, or ticketable fine, is currently set at $392.
Under Vermont’s Noxious Weed Quarantine #3, prohibited plant violations could result in fines of up to $1,000 for each violation; continuing violations could result in penalties of up to $25,000.
Where should aquatic nuisance species transport violations be reported?
Report aquatic nuisance species violations to Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife wardens. Wardens can be reached by calling their home or the nearest State Police dispatcher. Individual warden contact information for wardens in your region can be obtained:
in the Vermont Fishing Guide and Regulations;
on the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife website; or
by calling one of the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement main telephone numbers, (802) 828-1529 or (802) 828-1483.
The Shadow Lake Association sincerely thanks Ann Bove, a VT aquatic biologist, for compiling this FAQ information and for her tremendous support of Shadow Lake. We salute her long and distinguished career dedicated to AIS prevention education and the preservation of Vermont waters across this state.