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Letter: Help Pull Water Chestnuts

As advocated by Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation District, a grassroots effort by hand-pulling can remove the water chestnuts from thinly spread out areas, where the mats of chestnuts have not formed yet.

Water chestnuts are developing in the old Oswego lock/canal area.

By snapping off the stem about 18? below the floating rosette, the plant will die.

The water chestnuts infestation and other aquatic plants and weeds in, according to the Summary of a Survey of the Literature on the Economic Impact of Aquatic Weeds: H. William Rockwell, Jr.*, Ph. D, for the Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Foundation affect community aesthetics, drainage for agriculture and forestry, commercial and sport fishing, drinking water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, flood control, habitats for other plants, human and animal health, hydropower generation, irrigation, navigation, recreational boating, swimming, water conservation and transport, and, ultimately, land values.

Most invasive aquatic plants species have been introduced to this country from Europe, they do not have natural control agents or competitors and can dominate aquatic systems.

The magnitude of only a few of their impacts has been measured and then, generally, over limited areas.

Well-documented studies, according to Rockwell, provide a basis for estimating the general scale of these affects for the nation as a whole, and might serve as a guide for an appropriate magnitude of response.

The northeastern United States is associated with an infestation of more than 300 acres throughout some 55 miles of Lake Champlain between New York and Vermont.

Water chestnut can now be found in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Virginia, and in the Canadian Province of Quebec in a tributary of the Richelieu River (most likely from a northward expansion of the Lake Champlain infestation).

While established in the northeastern United States since the late 1800’s, water chestnuts continues to advance into new territory in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states.

In the past 2 years, New Hampshire and Connecticut have experienced first occurrences of this robust floating aquatic plant that re-establishes each year from dangerously sharp-spined nuts.

Although new to the Nashua River, NH in 1998 and the Connecticut River, CT, in 1999, water chestnut is a repeat offender to tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay where plants were first experienced in the 1920s.

Water Chestnuts grows best in shallow, nutrient-rich lakes and rivers and is generally found in waters with a pH range of 6.7 to 8.2 and alkalinity of 12 to 128 mg/L of calcium carbonate.

They colonize in shallow (less than 16 feet deep) areas of freshwater lakes and ponds, and slow-moving streams and rivers, where it forms dense mats of floating vegetation.

Water Chestnut infestations occur either by the rosettes detaching from their stems and floating to another area, or more often by the nuts being swept by currents or waves to other parts of the lake or river.

Water Chestnuts outcompetes native plants for sunlight.

It is a fierce competitor in shallow waters with soft, muddy bottoms.

Uncontrolled, it can create impenetrable floating mats across wide areas of water.

In Vermont, many previously fished bays of southern Lake Champlain are now inaccessible, and floating mats of water chestnuts can create a hazard for boaters and fisherman.

It has bee suggested that this noxious plant also severely limits the passage of light into the water, a critical element of a well-functioning aquatic ecosystem.

Water chestnuts reduce oxygen levels, which may increase the potential for fish kills.

The invasive plant outcompetes native vegetation and is of little value to wildfowl.

When the plant occupies a site, most recreational activities such as swimming, fishing from the shoreline, and the use of small boats are eliminated or severely impeded.

The primary economic costs related to water chestnuts are associated with the costs of chemical and mechanical control efforts.

It is also a human nuisance because mature water chestnuts drift to shore where their sharp spines may hurt bare feet.

The grassroots effort to address the invasive waterchestnut is a responsible enivornmentally sound approach to preserving the ecosytem and the community.

Another water chestnut pull is being planned for the area for all who can assist.

Jennifer C. Warren Esq.*
Lords Valley, PA

*(corporate finance attorney and pro bono work with environmental organizations)