Nine of the Lake Hopatcong WATER SCOUTS gathered for a final inspection of Landing Channel early last Saturday morning and have reported the Channel is now all clear of any Water Chestnut plants. During the initial lake wide survey that was organized by the Knee Deep Club last month the most southwestern tip of Landing Channel was the only area where this ecologically harmful floating invasive aquatic plant was found.
Once located and flagged for verification, around 50 of the plants were hand pulled and removed from the lake. A follow up inspection one week later, of the exact area where found, resulted in another dozen or so plants being spotted and removed. Subsequent inspections revealed no additional plants in the specific location where first found but it was decided that an intensive search of the entire Channel from the State Park to Lake’s End Marina would be prudent. This entire area has ideal habitat for this non-native species to set up residence and is only about a mile away (as the goose flies) from one of the largest known colonies of Water Chestnut plants in the state. Just down stream in Lake Musconetcong the plant, which was first introduced 3-4 years ago, had spread out into tens of acres. It grew so thick that it choked out other plant species and made any kind of recreation impossible. It was the sight of that huge biomass at lake Musconetcong and the potential to cause similar harm to New Jersey’s largest lake that got the Knee Deep Club to first take action that resulted in the organizing of the WATER SCOUTS.
Totaling around 70 in number, the WATER SCOUTS are an ad hoc group of paddlers (kayakers and canoeists) that come from various lake groups including: The Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club, The Garden State Yacht Club, The Antique & Classic Boats Society (LHACBS), The Lake Hopatcong Commission, Homestead Beach Assoc., individual concerned members of the lake community and of course the Knee Deep Club. The Lake Hopatcong based fishing club, which organized this massive effort, realized early on that they would need the help of the entire lake community, because the types of boats that their members typically use to fish the lake would not be well suited for a thorough search of the lake’s 45 miles of shoreline where the plant could get established. Their request for assistance was enthusiastically received from the various groups including the LHACBS’s generous donation to fund the hats the club wanted the WATER SCOUTS to wear to help spread the word about this serious threat. As the Knee Deep Club was able to bring on more paddlers, teams from as small a one individual to as many a dozen, were assigned specific areas to survey until the lake’s entire shoreline was covered. On the very first morning of the ten day long survey, Stacey Sellaro, team #2, found and flagged that first and only group of plants that had made their way to Lake Hopatcong. That early discovery really seemed to spark the level of enthusiasm that I witnessed in both conversations and emails from the WATER SCOUTS, people realized the threat was real and we were making a difference. While only one person actually found the plants every single participant played a vital role in what is a very huge and important endeavor.
Saturday’s re-inspection of Landing Channel will be the last organized search conducted this boating season, but all of the WATER SCOUTS are being asked to remain vigilant and flag and report any other sightings during their recreational paddling. But it was immensely important to conduct this survey early because by August the seeds from Water Chestnut plants become viable, meaning that they can drop off, settle in the sediment, winter over and sprout the following season. Each individual plant can drop as many as 300 seeds. That is one of the things that makes this plant particularly dangerous to the environment, it’s ability to have explosive growth. One seed can literally grow into acres in just two years. Year three can see tens of acres of a lake’s surface completely covered. The plants that were pulled this year would have barely filled a laundry basket but they could have released over 15,000 seeds into the lakebed by this fall. So to say that this massive effort was well worth it would be a major understatement.
Unfortunately this threat never goes away because the Water Chestnut is spreading like wild fire across our state. We plan on conducting similar type organized surveys over the next couple of years and are talking about making it into a social event and having fun along with all the hard work involved. But we are hoping that through public education and outreach that eventually we will not have to survey the entire lake because the community and various stakeholders, whether they be lakefront homeowners or visiting boaters, become aware of the threat and learn how to identify and report the plant. Sightings can be reported to the Lake Hopatcong Commission or me at email@example.com and photos would be very helpful, of the actual plant to verify but also the general area so we can go out and investigate. Eventually we hope to get to the point where organized surveys will only need to be conducted in the more remote areas of the lake like Liffy Island, the Jefferson Canals, Roland Eve’s Sanctuary in Northwood and of course Landing Channel.
Recently I found and reported a water chestnut sighting in a small lake in Monmouth County. About ten percent of the lake’s surface was covered. I was shocked to find that this major infestation was unknown to state or local authorities and as of right now I’m not aware of any action being taken so I believe that this lake will be covered nearly 100% by next season and it is part of a drainage that goes from Manalapan all the way to the Delaware River which includes several other small lakes. Seeing another lake be so adversely impacted by this plant is disturbing but it personally makes me feel very proud that here at Lake Hopatcong, we have the type of community that we can work together and protect our environment. Job Well Done by all the WATER SCOUTS.
(Above Photo: Classic example of Water Chestnut Rosette, note the serrated (saw toothed) edges that distinguishes it from all other floating aquatic plants. Leaves are typically 1-2 inches wide.)
Early Saturday morning members of the Lake Hopatcong WATER SCOUTS begin to assemble just south of the State Park to begin a thorough re-inspection of Landing Channel.
The search required getting into the shallow weed choked areas like Floating Island. The intrusion did not seem to disturb the small Green Heron that can be seen just to the right of the canoe bow in this photo.
After a pleasant early morning search of Landing Channel some of the Lake Hopatcong WATER SCOUTS begin the long trek home. From L-R Willa Scantelburry, Jeff Guttenburger, Linda Bruckhardt, and Joe Kolaya.
Tim Clancy is a past president of the Knee Deep Club and has been spearheading the Water Scout search for water chestnuts on Lake Hopatcong.