Taking Up Residence

The water chestnut has already been spotted outside of Chautauqua Lake.

Jeff Diers, Chautauqua County Watershed coordinator, confirmed Wednesday the water chestnut has been identified in the town of Carroll.

“A local private-property owner reported (water chestnuts) in a privately-owned pond,” Diers told The Post-Journal.

The discovery comes just days after County Executive Greg Edwards and Diers urged residents and tourists to be on the lookout for the invasive species, along with hydrilla.

Neither plant has been spotted in Chautauqua Lake this year. However, hydrilla was found in Tonawanda Creek in the summer of 2012, which is less than 80 miles from Chautauqua County. The water chestnut invaded Chautauqua Lake last summer, and has also already been spotted in the big pond at the Jamestown Audubon Society.

“Any water body in the county that has water chestnut or potentially hydrilla, any connecting water body has the potential for this to spread,” Diers said. “So, if it’s in Chautauqua Lake, let’s just say, it could spread into the Chadakoin, into the Conewango and further down. It could flow out of the Audubon preserve down from the outlet into the Conewango. So, those are two potentials.”

The invasive species are also able to be transported by water fowl, including ducks and geese.

“We have photographic evidence showing geese with the nutlets attached to their breast and their feathers,” Diers said. “What they’ll do is, they’ll go into a water body with water chestnuts, these nutlets will attach to them and they’ll fly, for example, if they started off at the Audubon preserve, more than likely these nutlets attached to them and they went over to Chautauqua Lake to feed and then deposited those nutlets in that water body.”

The Chautauqua County Department of Planning and Economic Development is working closely with the Audubon to help them in getting rid of the water chestnuts.

During the winter, the Audubon’s Land Use Management Committee developed a plan to get rid of the water chestnuts, but did not have the personnel to successfully help to launch it. However, thanks to funding from the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency and a grant from Audubon New York, Amy Noga, a water chestnut specialist, has been hired to help undertake the project.

Beginning June 15, Jamestown Audubon will be having a series of chestnut pulling days, which will require many volunteers.

“We are very excited to have a Water Chestnut Specialist to lead this effort,” Diers stated. “Amy has worked as an Environmental Educator and Naturalist Guide at Allegany State Park and Pfeiffer Nature Center in addition to teaching and developing several college courses in the natural sciences. She enjoys educating people of all ages about the importance of conservation of species and the natural environment in hopes of making science relatable to all people and has particular interest in bringing volunteers and other groups of people together to work toward solutions for topics of common environmental concern.”

Because Chautauqua Lake is the largest in the area, Diers said it tends to get most of the attention when it comes to searching for invasive species. However, he warned that like the water chestnut spotted in Carroll, it can be found in any water body.

“This should not just be an issue for Chautauqua Lake. It’s just the lake gets all the attention,” he said. “All water bodies in Chautauqua County (are at risk). We are concerned countywide. Our biggest focus in getting attention out is to Chautauqua Lake, because it is a large body of water. Early education is key. By all means, we want to ensure that the other lakes are protected as well.”

Although a submerged aquatic vegetation plan is being developed, no action is able to be taken until the plan is completed.

In the meantime, Diers encourages residents to be on the lookout for the invasive species in every water body throughout the county.

Water chestnut is a rooted, aquatic annual plant that can reach up to 15 feet in length. It has a rosette of floating leaves, which are green, glossy and triangular, with toothed edges. Each rosette plant can produce up to 15 nutlets per season. Each individual nutlet has the potential to produce up to five individual plants, each of which can produce an additional 15 nutlets, for a total of 75 nutlets annually.

Hydrilla is a submerged aquatic plant, which can grow rooted or with pieces drifting in the water. Its slender, branched stems can grow up to 25 feet long. Its leaves are blade-like and about 1/8 inch to 3/8 inch long, with distinct toothed edges. The midrib, or main vein, of the leaves also have more than one sharp tooth along it. There are generally four to eight leaves in a whorl.

Both invasive species can form dense floating mats, severely limiting light, which is a critical element of aquatic ecosystems. Once established, water chestnut and hydrilla can reduce oxygen levels and increase the potential of killing fish. They also compete with native vegetation, and can limit boating, fishing, swimming and other recreational activities. Unlike the water chestnut, which spreads via nutlets, hydrilla can spread from small fragments of the plant.

“This isn’t a concern for human health or anything like that, but it’s just something we want to make sure isn’t going to hurt the environment and spread dramatically,” Diers said. “The water chestnut is definitely starting to grow right now in local water bodies. It’s important that we start to look for this particular plant early and often.”

The first water chestnut pull for the Audubon will be from 8 a.m. – noon June 15. There will also be a training Sunday and Monday at 6:30 p.m. to learn more about the effort and how to be a team leader for the pulls.

Information about the Audubon water chestnut pulls and to sign up, call 569-2345 or email rlundin@jamestownaudubon.org. Reservations are needed.