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It’s Not Too Late To Save Oswego River

To the residents of Oswego County:

On June 10, in a vote of 13 to 12, members of our county legislature voted down the funding for the eradicating and control of the invasive Chinese water chestnut from the Oswego River.

I am a member of the Oswego County Environmental Management Council and also a member of the County Tourism Advisory Council, residing in Minetto.

Caitlin Smith, a student at ESF, works at removing invasive Water Chestnuts from the Oswego River/Canal at Minetto in July 2009. As part of her school recommendations and her personal interest in environmental stewardship, she has volunteered to help pick non-native plant, that invades and takes over where native plants, necessary for wildlife, are replaced. Recently, the Battle Island area of the river has seen a proliferation which prohibits the passage of recreational fishing boats, canoes and kayaks in the adjoining channels of the canal.
Caitlin Smith, a student at ESF, works at removing invasive Water Chestnuts from the Oswego River/Canal at Minetto in July 2009. As part of her school recommendations and her personal interest in environmental stewardship, she has volunteered to help pick non-native plant, that invades and takes over where native plants, necessary for wildlife, are replaced. Recently, the Battle Island area of the river has seen a proliferation which prohibits the passage of recreational fishing boats, canoes and kayaks in the adjoining channels of the canal.

In September of 2009 I presented a report to the Oswego County Economic Development & Planning Committee on the proliferation of the Chinese water chestnut in the Oswego River and the negative environmental and economic effects it was causing.

With no funding forthcoming from the state, the ED&P Committee made a proposal of funding treatment of the chestnut up to $60,000.

That fall, the legislature passed the proposal to spend up to $60,000 in the year 2010 to work towards eradicating the chestnuts.

Why the change of heart?

In 2008 and 2007 the Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation District started using a herbicide in conjunction with harvesting to work on the eradication of the chestnut.

Previously, just the harvesting was done.

Up until 2009, the county had received money from the state towards treating invasive plants.

Last year in 2009, there was no money appropriated by the state to the county for these projects.

Having relied on only state funding, none of the eradication programs took place.

Explaining the problem about the chestnut, the nut usually will germinate within the first two years, although a few may wait up to 12 years. One seed can give rise to ten to fifteen rosettes, and each rosette may produce as many as twenty seeds.

With high rates of germination, growth can be explosive.

Decomposition of the large volume of plants may also contribute to lower levels of dissolved oxygen in shallower waters.

Low levels of oxygen adversely affect the natural inhabitants of these waters, creating additional problems.

Native plants are disrupted, fish reproduction can be hindered, fishing and the use of boats becomes impossible.

The drifting rosettes have also caused clogging problems with the water intakes of the canal locks and other water intakes along the river.

Tourism and marine recreation contribute to a large part of the economic stability of our county.

The Oswego River helps contribute to these economic returns.

There are more than 200 acres of the water chestnut covering the river in rugs like mats.

Every year that the chestnuts go untreated, their numbers and locations proliferate exponentially.

In surveying the river this year, I have found new areas where the chestnuts have not been previously.

This is a serious, present problem.

Unless acted upon now, more and more sections of the river will become unusable except for narrow channels.

This is our county.

The Oswego River is our river.

What happens to the river affects all of us, both environmentally and economically.

As a note, the water chestnut is also being found in other bodies of water, such as the Salmon River and tributary streams to the Oswego River.

Even when the state budget is passed, will there be money this year for these programs?

It does not seem likely.

The county needs to be pro-active and take an offensive approach combating the water chestnuts now.

I would hope that the reason the members of the legislature who voted no was because not enough information was presented to them.

Taking the initiative shows that we care and could help with securing additional funding from other sources.

It’s not too late.

If the legislature will reverse its decision at the next legislative meeting, there would still be time to attack and treat the chestnuts this season.

Please contact your legislator and ask them to bring this to a vote again, and vote yes for combating the water chestnuts.

For contact info go to: http://www.co.oswego.ny.us/legislature/directory/govt%20directory%202010.pdf

To read a copy of the report, more info and photos of the carpets of Chinese water chestnuts on the Oswego River, go to: http://web.mac.com/oswegocountygreen and select the pages having Chinese water chestnut in the page title.

Richard Drosse, Town of Minetto