Updated 08/21/2012 10:24 PM
Oswego County battles water chestnuts
An invasive water species known as a water chestnut, which is native to Asia, was unknowingly released into waterways in the Mid-Atlantic region decades ago. Now the weed has spread as far north as Canada and is wreaking havoc on local ecosystems and boating on the Oswego River. But as our Candace Hopkins tells us, county officials are fighting back.
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OSWEGO COUNTY, N.Y. -- Owning beautiful riverfront property in Oswego County should be a source of pride, but for some homeowners like Tom Popovich, this tangled mess of weeds provokes a different feeling.
"They look out over the waterways and say, whoa, holy cow, where do you live. It used to be embarrassing," said Popovich.
Popovich is just one of the dozens of homeowners in Granby, Fulton, Volney and several other parts of the county whose shorelines are being taken over by water chestnuts. But just years ago, local officials had no idea how to deal with the problem.
"Nobody really had any knowledge of where this weed came from necessary and how to get rid of it, so I think it was more of a trial and error type of thing," said Popovich.
And while the plant looks harmless, Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation District Manager John DeHollander says as it spreads, it is wiping out the local ecosystem and forcing fish from their native habitats.
"It grows so thickly. It's like taking a venetian blind or a shade and rolling it across the water surface. It blocks off the sunlight from penetrating down through the water column," said DeHollander.
So to stop the growth, the Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation Department has launched a multi-year effort against the weed, using herbicides to wipe it out.
"It starts killing it from within. The rosette is where all the nuts are formed for next year's crop, so we're trying to deplete next year's crop, as well as the years to come," said DeHollander.
County officials say the project should be completed within the next two weeks, but it won't be before next year before they determine if the process was actually successful, when they're able to see if the plants grow back or not.
When the project is completed, more than 200 acres of waterfront will have been treated with the herbicide, at a cost of nearly $80,000. It will be paid for with state and federal funding.