Volunteers Make a Dent in Invasive Water Chestnut Plants –

WATER CHESTNUT can form a thick mass of vegetation, limiting fishing and water recreation activities, once it is established in a shallow water area. Pulling is effective before they become established in a body of water. (Photo by Janet Clerkin, Oswego County Tourism Office.)

Groups Plan Water Chestnut Pull at Port Ontario July 14


OSWEGO COUNTY – Several volunteers, conservation organizations and angler groups have worked together over the past few years to help slow the spread of water chestnuts in Oswego County rivers. Headed by the Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation District, the groups will hold a water chestnut pull at Port Ontario on Saturday, July 14.

An invasive species, the water chestnut plant can be very difficult to control once it is established in a body of water. The plants can create large floating mats of vegetation that restrict the penetration of sunlight, limit the growth of native plants, and disrupt the food web. Water chestnuts have become established in sections of the Oswego River and have been found in the Salmon and Oneida rivers.

John DeHollander, District Manager of the Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation District, is coordinating many of the control efforts.

“It is difficult to slow the spread of water chestnut once it becomes established in a shallow water area,” said DeHollander. “The non-native aquatic plant produces a large number of seeds, called nutlets, helping it to grow in colonies that rapidly multiply. The lower Salmon River area at Port Ontario is one of the areas targeted for hand pulling because the plant has not become fully established there.”

Each water chestnut plant can produce as many as up to 300 nuts per year.

Several acres of plants were pulled last summer by volunteers on the Oswego and Oneida rivers and the Salmon River Estuary. In addition, the Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation District applied a chemical treatment to more than 200 acres of plant cover on the Oswego River.

Nearly 30 members of the Oswego County River Guides Association, headed by Phil Bortz of Altmar, spent a day pulling plants from the Salmon River Estuary last July. County Legislator Shawn Doyle, District 3, Pulaski, helped to coordinate the project and provided refreshments for the group. Many of the guides rowed driftboats and brought their families to help out. Also assisting in the project were New York Sea Grant, Selkirk Shores State Park, the Pine Grove Association, the Nature Conservancy and several concerned individuals.

“The hand-pull last summer at Port Ontario went very well with support from the River Guides Association and New York Sea Grant,” said DeHollander. “We look forward to having another successful hand pull event on July 14, with all of the volunteers, cooperating agencies, organizations and private individuals.”
On the Oswego River, Dick and Naneen Drosse of Minetto have led a valiant effort for several years pulling water chestnuts with the help of other kayakers and private individuals. Their hard work is starting to pay off, said Naneen Drosse. There was a definite improvement last summer in some of the areas where they have hand-pulled each year.
Bass anglers conducted a very successful hand-pull along the Oneida River last summer. The project was a collaborative effort of the Salt City Bassmasters, the Good Ole Boys Bass Club, and the New York BASS Chapter Federation. They plan to conduct a similar project in 2012.

The Oswego County Legislature allocated funds to pay for chemical treatment of the Oswego River last year. The funds were reimbursed through a state grant.

“Undercutting along with chemical applications was utilized for control on the Oswego River,” said DeHollander. “Mixed results appeared during post-treatment. Further sampling last fall showed that some areas still had a high percentage of viable nuts for growth in the next season, while other areas are showing promise of reductions. This application will take place again in 2012 subject to available funding. We all need to remain vigilant in the fight against this highly invasive aquatic plant.”

For more information or to sign up for the July 14 pull at Port Ontario, contact the Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation District at 315-592-9663. Additional information about water chestnuts and other invasive species in New York State can be found at http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/50272.html

FAMILY OF PADDLERS – The Jan van der Heide family helped to pull water chestnuts from the lower Salmon River at Port Ontario last summer. Oswego County River Guides, New York Sea Grant, and other volunteers will hold a water chestnut pull Saturday, July 14. Volunteers will meet at the Pine Grove Boat Launch. (Photo by Janet Clerkin, Oswego County Tourism Office.)