LAKEWOOD - An invasive species discovered this week could threaten Chautauqua Lake, County Executive Greg Edwards said Tuesday.
In fact, those living in and around the lake are asked to immediately notify Edwards' office if they come across water chestnuts, an invasive species becoming common in the northeast region of the country.
During a news conference at the Lakewood Rod and Gun Club, Edwards said portions of a water chestnut plant, scientifically known as Trapa natans, were found over the weekend near the mouth of Ball Creek close to the Interstate 86 Veterans Memorial bridge in North Harmony. A full-grown plant was also discovered near Dutch Hollow Creek.
County Executive Greg Edwards on Monday called upon all Chautauqua County residents on or around the lake to notify the county if they spot water chestnuts. From left to right is Jeff Diers, county watershed coordinator; Michael Martin of the consulting firm Cedar Eden Environment LLC; CLA President Chris Yates; and Edwards.
P-J photo by Eric Tichy
"The water chestnut is damaging for any number of reasons," Edwards said to reporters. "The statistic that scared me the most was that one acre of water chestnuts produce enough seeds to seed 100 acres the following year."
The county executive said the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Army Corps of Engineers have been contacted. If not eradicated in time water chestnuts may spread rapidly, hampering boaters and users of the lake.
However, before any action can be taken, the county must locate the plants first.
"The experts tell me we have about a two-week window to have an impact on this plant," Edwards said. "Right now it's flowering, and within two weeks it will have produced seeds that will then fertilize in a sense."
He added, "That gives us two weeks to locate and search 13,000 acres. ... What I need my media partners to do is to get whatever essential (information) out there and get whatever sound bites they need, because I will be calling everybody in Chautauqua County who has an interest in Chautauqua Lake."
The water chestnuts, a rooted plant known to invade shallow, nutrient-rich lakes in the northeast, were found by the consulting firm Cedar Eden Environment, LLC. The group was conducting a dredging feasibility study in the lake.
"Any time we find an invasive species it is alarming," Jeff Diers, county watershed coordinator, told The Post-Journal. "The water chestnut is truly a nasty plant."
Chautauqua Lake has been placed under a microscope this summer. Due to a mild winter and low icepack, weed growth has exploded, prompting residents and lawmakers alike to call for state and local help.
To aid the Chautauqua Lake Association in weed-harvesting efforts, the County Legislature in June voted to allocated $50,000 out of its fund balance. That was on top of $40,000 the CLA received from a portion of the county's 5 percent occupancy tax.
To receive the latest round of county assistance, the CLA was required to match $20,000. According to President Chris Yates, the lake association had raised the funds and secured the funding.
The state, too, has stepped forward. State Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, and Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Chautauqua County, announced recently that they had secured $50,000 from the state budget. It was the second such payment the state lawmakers acquired and was used by the CLA to get a third harvesting crew on the lake.
In the meantime, locating water chestnuts has taken center stage.
"Those living on the lake may be our best defense," Edwards said, noting that his office will set up a hotline for residents to notify the county.
In the meantime, anyone who spots the plant is asked to call 753-4211.