County To Revisit Combating Water Chestnut Problem

Water chestnuts as seen on the eastside of Old Route 57, south of Seneca  Hill.
Water chestnuts as seen on the eastside of Old Route 57, south of Seneca Hill.

OSWEGO, NY – Water chestnuts could resurface at next month’s Oswego County Legislature meeting.

The legislature’s Economic Development and Planning Committee voted 6-1 earlier this year to hire a company to cut and chemically treat 213 acres of the Oswego River that is infested by water chestnuts. The cost would be $47,766.

Legislator Doug Malone cast the nay vote.

The resolution died on the floor of the legislature.

To bring it back through committee to the full legislature, a person in the opposition must move to revisit the matter, in this case, Malone.

He described the problem as a “Northeast issue” and said the state and federal government should take care of the problem.

At Tuesday’s committee meeting, several county residents urged the legislators to reconsider approving the funding – before the problem gets worse. Malone didn’t attend the meeting.

Minetto resident Richard Drosse, speaking as a member of the Oswego County Environmental Management Council and of the County Tourism Advisory Council, told the committee that the problem, left untreated, will cause great environmental and economic problems for the county.

One seed can give rise to 10 to 15 rosettes (pictured), and each rosette may produce as many as 20 seeds. With high rates of germination, growth can be explosive, according to Richard Drosse of the county Environmental Management Council.
One seed can give rise to 10 to 15 rosettes (pictured), and each rosette may produce as many as 20 seeds. With high rates of germination, growth can be explosive, according to Richard Drosse of the county Environmental Management Council.

“Last year, there was no money from the state to address the problem. This year, I doubt very much there is going to be any money coming from the state,” he said. “People help people that help themselves. This is a problem that goes from the homeowners right up through the state and federal government. It’s our river.”

They were looking for a tour boat to come in and be a part of this year’s “Magic in Minetto” festivities, he noted. The proliferation of water chestnuts might make that impossible, he added.

“We’ve got to take some action. (The county) has to help ourselves, we need to be pro-active,” Drosse said. “If they are grants available, funding through other means we need to find it.”

Decomposition of the large volume of water chestnuts may also contribute to lower levels of dissolved oxygen in shallower waters, he said, adding that low levels of oxygen adversely affect the natural inhabitants of these waters, creating additional problems.

It disrupts the native plants, fish reproduction can be hindered, and the use of boats becomes impossible.

“People aren’t going to come and fish or boat on the river if they can’t get through,” Drosse said. “If the state isn’t going to contribute money, we need to help ourselves.”

One riverfront property owner, Larry Hansen of Granby, who lives near Ox Creek, said for “three years running I have seen depreciation in my property value and increase in my taxes.”

He said he hasn’t seen anything being done to get rid of the water chestnuts.

Hansen said his ability to enjoy his property “has really gone downhill.”

Mike Kerker, second vice chair of the EMC, spoke as a county resident and a biologist.

He compared the problem to a biological system.

“If we had a virus or bacteria that was coming into our bodies or our children’s, I’m not sure we would make the decision to let’s see whether somebody else is going to pay for the medical treatment before we went and got that treatment,” he told the committee. “That’s exactly what we’re looking at in our river system.”

Beverly Downs of Fulton also lives along the river.

“Where I am last year started to get some chestnuts. It was because they were up by Ox Creek, chopping off the tops and letting the rest float down the river,” she said. “I would like to make sure that when we do do something that we harvest it and take the stuff out and away, not just cut it and leave it and let it go with the flow of the water.”

“Last year we put this in the budget with the anticipation that if we had a problem we’d use it and hopefully the grants would come in and it would be replenished,” committee chair Morris Sorbello noted. “That hasn’t happened.”

“I think that if we miss this opportunity, if we don’t start doing something this year, then we’re going to lose total control over this thing,” cautioned Legislator Shawn Doyle of Pulaski. “We’re going to have to do something. In a few years, this is going to be blocking more crucial areas.”

It’s going to affect tourism, he said, adding that if he was a property owner along the riverfront, he would be forming an organization to start grieving their assessments collectively.

He would like to see the resolution brought back to the full legislature.

Fulton Legislator Louella LeClair also supported bringing the matter back on the floor.

“We could be the shinning star of the state if we showed the rest of the counties along the canal system that we’re not going to sit around and wait for Washington or Albany before we do something about this,” she said. “If every county along the river did something about this, we could eradicate this. It’s going to keep coming at us if something isn’t done.”

John DeHollander, director of the Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation District, told the committee that the grant funds anticipated to replenish the county funds used to fight the water chestnuts might not be available to the county until September.

Chemical treatment to fight the water chestnut infestation should occur by August, he added.

The legislature could put the matter back on the floor if someone made the motion and it was supported by two-thirds or more of the entire legislature, Sorbello said.

“We’ll do it that was if necessary; if we can,” he said.

1 Comment

  1. If Mr. Malone is worried about the State paying for this , maybe the County should not plow the State road in front of his shop on 104 untill the State pays upfront for that too.
    The property owners on the waterfront are assesed a much higher rate because of the water. The County , Cities and Towns have all made out from these higher assesments. Now it’s time to put a little money back to maintain those higher property values . Spend a little now or those property owners should get a assessment reduction and we all know how much assessers hate to reduce the value of a property.

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