Hopatcong Mayor Sylvia Petillo honored Tim Clancy of the Knee Deep Club for his efforts to find and remove the invasive water chestnut species from Lake Hopatcong through the Water Scout program.
“Under your guidance… our community can now prevent water chestnuts from spreading,” Petillo said as she presented Clancy with the “You Make A Difference” award. “Thank you for enriching our lives and our treasured Lake Hopatcong.”
Clancy, who organized more than 70 paddlers into searching teams that covered the lake shoreline and shallow areas—including Landing Channel, where the only incidence of water chestnut was discovered—said he was honored to receive the award, but mostly happy to have the opportunity for another teaching moment for the community.
“Once everyone becomes aware of the threat, [the water chestnut] will have a hard time getting established in front of anyone’s home,” he said to those in attendance at the Borough of Hopatcong Municipal Building on Wednesday night. “The most important thing now is public education.”
The water chestnut is an invasive species that can spread quickly and take over ecosystems, choking out natural plant and animal species. It’s already taken over parts of Lake Musconetcong, which was the warning sign for those in the Lake Hopatcong Commission and the Knee Deep Club. “I was really shocked,” Clancy said about his first visit to see the plant at Lake Musconetcong.
By removing the plants that had established themselves in Landing Channel, Clancy said the Water Scouts eliminated the threat of about 18,000 seeds. “It’s better that we found it than it finds us,” he said. “So this is a really good news story for Lake Hopatcong. The threat never goes away, though.”
Petillo pointed out that it’s not just a threat to the aquatic species. “By being proactive, we saved millions of dollars,” she said, citing other lake communities that have had to pour money into eliminating the plant. Clancy agreed, and said that the recreation industry and the value of homes around the lake are at risk if the plant establishes itself on the lake.
By getting word out to lakefront homeowners, though, he’s hopeful that the risk of a serious outbreak is low. And although the Water Scouts have finished their efforts for the 2010 season, they will be back next year, particularly in the more remote areas. “It’s important that we be proactive about this,” he said.