Editorial: Motors on Thirteenth Lake

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has proposed a ban on gasoline powered motorboats on Thirteenth Lake in northern Warren County, New York.

Gasoline Motor Ban on Thirteenth Lake.
Thirteenth Lake

The 2005 Siamese Ponds Unit Management Plan indicates that the DEC has received “numerous letters and phone calls” on the issue. The complaints address the noise, air and water pollution, and impact on nesting loons and paddlers caused by motorboats.

Under the new regulation, electric motors would still be allowed on the lake. This would allow fishermen to troll and the mobility impaired to continue to access the lake and the Siamese Ponds Wilderness.

We’ve spent a great deal of time on 13th Lake, and it’s beautiful. There are very few lakes in the Adirondacks, accessible by car, that are as unspoiled. The lake is fairly well sheltered from wind, and it’s hard to imagine a reasonable use of the lake that isn’t possible with a quiet, smoke-free electric motor.

Currently, the only limit on craft size is the required walk of 500 hundred feet from the state parking lot. Vehicle access is blocked by boulders, which creates a defacto limit on boat size — what you can pull by hand without the help of a vehicle.

We’ve been on the lake when a small gasoline-powered motor is in use. If it’s noisy or smoky, it’s hard not to feel that one person’s use of the lake is degrading the experience for others. For this reason, I support the ban on gasoline motors on Thirteenth Lake.

In some ways, this argument is parallel to the debate that surrounds the use of float planes on Lows Lake. In that case, those against the use of motors also argue that the use of a few diminishes the experience of many.  In my opinion, the decision regarding Thirteenth Lake is simpler and more clear cut — there’s no existing industry based on the use of gasoline motors and there is an inexpensive, clean alternative.

The proposed regulation was released for public review on May 26. Interested parties have until July 2 to comment:

Peter Frank
Bureau of Forest Preserve
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-4254
[email protected]

17 comments on “Editorial: Motors on Thirteenth Lake

  1. I agree with the ban. There are very few places that ban gas motors and I don’t think its an unreasonable idea.

  2. +1. I’ve spent a great deal of time on and around Thirteenth Lake over the years, and I support this proposal too. Allowing electric trolling motors is an excellent compromise that preserves access for sportsmen and the handicapped while preserving the environment of the lake and surrounding wilderness.

  3. I support the ban. The electric motors are an excellent compromise. This would be a good change. It would be great to make the same change to another lake on a Wilderness boundary – Putnam pond.

  4. In 1995 I spent two weeks in the Pharaoh Lakes Wilderness with 2 packs, a partner and a Hornbeck. We used the boat to haul our gear across the biggest ponds and it did save us a lot of heavy work. When we were moving camp that boat was fully loaded, and only had a couple inches of gunnel above the water.

    When crossing Putnam, I was concerned that a motor boat would sink me, so I tied empty water bottles on 50 foot lines to each pack to make retrieval from the bottom of the pond possible. Not that that’s an argument for banning motors on Putnam, more like a tale about the insanity of youth.

  5. Ok, guess I’ll take the other side. To me, the sound of a small gas engine is nostalgic. When I hear one, it brings back fond memories and I also think “that is someone having fun.” I don’t have a gas engine, I wont buy one…just because it does not make sense today with the advent of good quality electric motors. That said, why trash or outlaw the older ones. Let time and technology take care of this. That said..any bad behavior, grossly noisey or smokey leaking engines of boats..get confiscated or the owner fined, or both. Again, that would clean the slate. Let grandpa with his 4hp evinrude be… his grandsons will buy electric simply because they will never learn how to fix or start grandpa’s motor. If it does not start immediately today’s generation won’t put up with it.

  6. Once again the rich city folk with the half million dollar summer camps who don’t even live here want gas motors banned on the lake. Electric motors will not work on the lake with any kind of wind. You wont be able to get back up the lake. Then who you gonna call because your cell phone wont work. Even if it did, is the ranger going to come rescue you with an electric motor that won’t work in the wind. The idea of an electric motor simply wont work here.

  7. As author of this opinion, I’m not rich, from the city, or the owner of a half a million dollar summer camp. Our camp is for winter and around 300 sq ft. (Both our home outside and inside the Adk blue line combined are less than 1400 sq feet.) I believe that regardless of the size of your home, or wallet, you have the right to express an opinion.

    I’ve seen many people use electric motors on the lake without issue. The DEC seems to feel that this is a workable solution. Personally, I’ll never get stuck on the lake with an inadequate motor, unless my arms give out. I have dealt with the occasional strong wind on 13th and just paddled through it. If I did encounter an overwhelming wind, I’d probably pull over to the shore and wait it out, or walk back.

  8. The Warren County Conservation Council which represents approximately 2000 sportsmen in Warren County has passed a resolution opposing electric motors.

  9. I went to the WCCC website and saw a notice about the proposed rule change, but I didn’t see any opinion on it. I’m assuming you mean that WCCC is not against electric motors, but against the ban on gasoline motors.

    I did some “googling” and found a Post-star article on the issue. Vic Sasse who owns the local tackle shop seems to imply that electric motors aren’t up to the job on windy days. Vic was a ranger and has a ton of experience fishing 13th. If anyone would know the truth about that body of water it would be Vic. I’ve paddled 13th maybe 200 days in my life and I’ve never seen anyone getting towed. I have seen someone from Garnet Hill towing the swimming float back to the beach after it broke loose in a storm, and I think that would be tough with an electric motor.

    I don’t think a limit on motor size will satisfy those in favor of the gas-motor ban. I’ve never seen anything bigger than 10hp (?) on 13th. I think the real issue for those against is the use of smoky, noisy motors regardless of size. There’s no easy way to regulate the condition of a motor. The gas ban is probably viewed as a simple way to eliminate motors that are in bad condition.

  10. Four stroke motors are both clean and quiet. Make 13th a Four stroke motors only lake. Just an idea. We use the lake during hunting season to cut down on the hike to our back woods tent camp. The lake can get very rough and you need the power only a gas motor will give you. In my opinion an electric motor is a safety hazard and will not work coming back up the lake with a strong wind in your face.

  11. @Anon #3: I hadn’t heard of, or considered that type of regulation. Is a four-stroke only rule enforceable? Based on what I’ve seen with snowmobiles, the ranger should be able to tell from across the lake if a motor was four-stroke or two-stroke.

    In your opinion what should be the size limit? How many HPs are required to deal with a moderately stiff wind? I know that special regs apply for using wagons in the Siamese for hunting season. How would you feel about four-strokes allow during that time?

  12. I like the four stroke idea, I found many lakes and rivers across our country that are four stroke only. How long do we have to wait for DEC to make a decision? The lake is all of ours, we all pay the high New York state taxes. Too bad we couldn’t just vote on it.

  13. The regulation to prohibit the use of all motors except electric motors becomes effective January 1, 2012. You can thank the Garnet Hill Association for this. Go to their web site and click members section, motor boat usage letters to NYS DEC and you can read the letters that were sent in and who sent them.

  14. @Anon – I realize this didn’t go the way you’d like but thanks for the heads up. I was able to find a story on the Adirondack Enterprise but not the official announcement. If you could post a link I’d appreciate it.

  15. I met Steve Ovitt, the former ranger of the Siamese Ponds Wilderness last night. While I’d never met Steve before, I knew much of him, respected his work and valued his opinion. While I know this issue has been decided, I was very curious and I asked him what he thought was the right solution for 13th Lake. His feeling was that the four-stroke solution would have been ideal. He agreed that they were very clean and quiet and felt that many anglers and hunters would upgrade their motors to continue to use 13th.

    He also made a very interesting big picture point: any new four-strokes that were purchased to comply with the new regs at 13th – would benefit other lakes too, when sportsmen used them there. He also told me that in his opinion, while the electric-only rule isn’t ideal, it’s much better than having no regulation on the lake at all.

  16. Our hunting party had a very good relationship with Steve. He will be missed. The four stroke motors would have been perfect. Been on the lake many times in rough conditions. Wouldn’t want to rely on an electric motor. It is safer to forget the lake and hike around it. Happy hunting.

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