Jeff Guttenberger, a Water Scout from Hopatcong, uses bright pick ribbon to mark the location of the invasive Water Chestnut plants, found growing in Lake Hopatcong near Liffy Island.

Invasive Water Chestnut plants found in Lake Hopatcong

JEFFERSON – About a dozen water chestnut plants, an aggressive invasive aquatic plant, have been spotted growing in the water near Liffy Island in Lake Hopatcong.

According to reports from The Lake Hopatcong Foundation, the non-profit organization which organizes Water Scouts, trained volunteers who regularly conduct patrols around the lake, member Alice Szigethy was on her Wave Runner over the weekend when she spotted a colony of plants near the shoreline in the shallow water between Liffy Island and the shore of the Prospect Point Preserve in Jefferson.

Donna Macalle-Holly, coordinator and grants administrator for the Foundation, conducted an initial investigation, kayaking to the location to confirm and then mark the plants with ribbon. A short video of her voyage can be found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/686600261375462/.

On Tuesday, Tim Clancy, Knee Deep Club trustee and one of the original Water Scout organizers boated to the area to assess the situation. While floating in the shallow water about 50 yards from shore, Clancy spotted two small plants just hitting the surface of the water. Upon further investigation Clancy determined that two, maybe three younger plants lurked just beneath the surface. Using the bright pink ribbon issued to all Water Scout volunteers, Clancy dutifully tied a two-foot length of ribbon on each plant.

Tim Clancy, using bright pink ribbon, leans into the water near Liffy Island in Lake Hopatcong to mark two Water Chestnut plants he found Tuesday.
Tim Clancy, using bright pink ribbon, leans into the water near Liffy Island in Lake Hopatcong to mark two Water Chestnut plants he found Tuesday.

As Clancy was making his discovery, kayaker Jeff Guttenberger from Hopatcong, out for a paddle in the lake, happened along. As it turns out, Guttenberger has been volunteering as a Water Scout since the group’s inception. He was eager to help.

Seeing an opportunity to use Guttenberger as his eyes along the shoreline, Clancy directed Guttenberger to paddle close to the shoreline to locate the infected area. In short order Guttenberger found the plants already marked by Macalle-Holly. He also marked other plants in the area.

“I’m shocked I found some,” said Guttenberger who has volunteered as a Water Scout at Lake Musconetcong and Cranberry Lake. “I’ve been looking for them for years and I finally found one—makes me a lot more motivated,” he said.

Clancy said he would meet with Macalle-Holly and Foundation president Jessica Murphy, who will determine a course of action, and offer his advice as to how to proceed. Clancy was one of the many volunteers who spearheaded the removal of a colony of water chestnut found in the Landing Channel in 2010.

As noted by Macalle-Holly in her video, the plants are still too young to pull, with about half still not reaching the surface of the water. And, because hand pulling is the most effective way to eradicate the plant, she urges that only trained volunteers take on the task.

The yearly Water Scout patrols on Lake Hopatcong have yet to hit the lake in force. Clancy has been fighting what he believes is an inevitable battle for many years and is taking this sighting seriously. He thinks the affected cove needs to be searched with numerous scouts, using a controlled grid search.

“One seed becomes many, many becomes an explosion,” he said.

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