They’ve spent the last couple of weeks scouring the shoreline of Lake Hopatcong for any sign of the invasive water chestnut species—and as of Wednesday, with the search complete, the Water Scouts didn’t see a single incidence of the havok-wreaking plant.
“The big news is that the areas of the most concern were all clear,” said Tim Clancy of the Knee Deep Club, who organized the effort for the second year. “Those critical areas—the canals, Liffy Island, Crescent Cove, Roland Eve’s Sanctuary, northern Woodport, Bright’s Cove, and Landing Channel—were all covered by larger teams and are clean.”
Landing Channel was of particular relief to the Water Scouts, since that was the only place the water chestnut was discovered last year.
The water chestnut has taken over some bodies of water, and it starts with a seed that has four barb-like prongs, which can be introduced to an ecosystem by birds or by vessels that aren’t properly cleaned from one body of water to the next. Once the seed embeds itself in the lake bottom (particularly shallow areas without much turbulence), a stringy plant grows toward the surface, creating clusters of leaves called rosettes. Each leaf is about 2 inches wide, serrated with an arrowhead shape, and the rosettes can multiply quickly, with each producing up to 20 seeds. If established, the water chestnut can completely choke out other aquatic life.
The Water Scouts were established to find and remove the species before it can spread through large areas of the lake. So far, just the one colony was discovered in Landing Channel in 2010; it was pulled, and the location has been revisited regularly to ensure the removal was complete.
Several dozen volunteers from the Knee Deep Club, the Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club Paddlers, the Garden State Yacht Club, and other lake groups, covered different segments of the lake permiter, each volunteer in a kayak or rowboat so as to have the closest possible view of the weed species.
The search this year began on June 17 and wrapped up on Tuesday. (Water chestnuts go to seed in August, so the intent is to find and remove any before August 1.)
Because of the success of the Water Scout initiative and the public education aspect of the effort, Clancy said in future years the Water Scouts may just focus on those “hot spot” locations and count on public awareness to inform the Knee Deep Club or the Lake Hopatcong Commission if and when any sightings are made in other areas.
“I’m really hopeful at this point,” Clancy said. “Because of public education, I think the plant will really have a hard time getting established in our lake. The only places we’ll have to continue to closely monitor are those places where the water chestnut will thrive, where it’s so secluded we need to make an extra effort to look for it.”
For more information on the water chestnut and the Water Scouts, go to the “Nature” section of LakeHopatcongNews.com, or visit the Lake Hopatcong Commission website, lakehopatcong.org. A wrap-up letter to the Water Scouts from Clancy is posted below.
We had a handful of people who needed an extra day to cover their area, that’s understandable w/ some of the crazy weather we had over the last couple of weeks, but the results are in & we are Water Chestnut clear at lake Hopatcong this year! Overall the operation ran smoothly, we did lose a few paddlers from last year, but I had several volunteers who covered their areas, some WATER SCOUTS nearly doubling their original coverage area.
Special thanks to those folks which includes the Heatons, Joe Kolaya & his team, Lyn Peterson, Bob & Norma Rung, Alice Szigethy, Bob & Wendy Walter, Donna McHolly (Macalle-Holly), and Genie & Tom Wiss. I’m going to double all of their salaries. Plus a hearty thank you to everyone who helped out. Think about it, w/ just a group of volunteers we covered the state’s largest lake’s entire shoreline and then some.We did have a handful of reports that ultimately were false positives but that’s good because it showed me that everyone was taking their job serious and being over cautious. I’d rather go out and check a sighting out and clear it as not being Water Chestnut then someone feeling they were uncertain & not report and then have it go unnoticed until it was well established.Going forward, even though the formal search is now complete, I ask that everyone remain vigilant & continue to keep your eyes peeled and your pink survey tape at the ready as you enjoy the rest of the summer and paddle around the lake.
For next year, we will be discussing some changes in the near future. It’s my personal sense that last year we identified and removed a small infestation and no plants were found in that area this year, so this program is already a tremendous success. Plus everything we’ve done has been done w/ a sense of getting the word out and informing the entire lake community. I know we were also successful on that front. The bright yellow hats, the WATER SCOUT brand & working closely w/ the media, getting pictures of the plant published have all gotten the attention we intended. Every time I travel around the lake I meet new people who are aware of what we’ve done and are doing.I say, that for the most part, this nasty little critter would have a real hard time rearing it’s ugly head without being noticed and reported. With that in mind I’m leaning towards having an informal lake wide search period for all of next June. I’d ask that everyone cover the areas that they have been covering and to look for the Water Chestnut when ever you’re paddling around the lake. For formal searches I think we’ll try to organize team searches of what I consider critical areas, ones that not only have the ideal habitat the plant requires but are a little less traveled and have fewer lake front homes so the plant may go unnoticed longer there. Off the top of my head I would say that Landing Channel, Crescent Cove, Roland Eve’s Sanctuary, the Jefferson Canals, Liffy Is. area and northern Woodport would all be on that list. But I have nearly a year to work that out, but tentatively figure we’ll have an informal Month of June WATER CHESTNUT lake wide search and on specific dates ask for volunteers to conduct more intensive searches of those most critical areas.But for now enjoy the rest of your paddling season and we’ll be in touch early next year and work on a more focused search.
But I’d like to personally thank each & everyone of you. I think this effort represents the very best that our community offers. Here we have people from diverse backgrounds and even diverse lake interests all working together as a team to help protect this wonderful lake that we all care so much about.
Tim “the Chestnut Nut” Clancy
P.S.: Keep that sentiment in mind because with the recent bad news about funding for the Lake Hopatcong Commission, we may want to start thinking about a lake community based solution for that problem also.