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Volunteer Water Scouts Keep Water Chestnut Out of Lake Hopatcong
It started back in mid-May, when a stand-up paddler picked up a life vest floating in Lake Hopatcong near Liffy Island. He took the vest home and found a water chestnut (trapa natans) attached to it (photo 1). Fortunately, the paddler knew how important it is to report all water chestnut sightings which he did through web site of the Lake Hopatcong Foundation.
A couple of weeks later a trained Lake Hopatcong Water Scout was out on her WaveRunner in the same area and found about 10 small water chestnut plants which she photographed (photo 2) and reported as well. Later in June, a team of experienced Water Scouts were paddling through their usual assigned area in the Jefferson Canals which they have been scouting for water chestnut since the volunteer program was initiated by the Knee Deep Club back in 2010. The volunteers came across 10 water chestnut plants in the canals, which they immediately hand-pulled and carefully marked the area where the plants were found and along the shoreline with the bright pink tape.
The Lake Hopatcong Foundation, which oversees the Lake Hopatcong Water Scout program, reported the water chestnut sightings using the water chestnut Reporting Form on the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Services of Morris County website and also reported it to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
The Foundation received permission to keep recreational users from the area where water chestnut was found near Liffy Island which is undeveloped shoreline along the lake. Water Scouts roped off the closed area and posted signs in the lake (photo 3) to keep vessels from transporting the water chestnut to other lake areas.
Dedicated Water Scouts have continued to monitor both areas near Liffy Island and Jefferson Canals on a regular basis. Plants of all sizes (photos 4 and 5) have been marked, photographed and hand-pulled by Water Scouts and NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife staff.
Since May, approximate 150 plants near Liffy Island and 10 plants in the Jefferson Canals have been hand-pulled and removed from the lake. As the summer season progresses, it becomes much more difficult to hand-pull the plants with the nut on the bottom of the plant. The water chestnut plants become entwined with other aquatic plants and the water chestnut nuts are more firmly embedded in the lake bottom. GPS coordinates have been taken to closely monitor the locations in the future.
Water chestnut is an extremely aggressive invasive species. By educating ourselves on how to identify the plant and report water chestnut, we can keep it from overtaking ponds, lakes and slow moving sections of our rivers. For more information on the Lake Hopatcong Water Scouts program or to volunteer as a Lake Hopatcong Water Scout, visit www.lakehopatcongfoundation.org/water-chestnut/.