MAYVILLE - What started as a frantic search in Chautauqua Lake for the invasive species dubiously known as water chestnuts has now turned to optimism.
Two months after a half-dozen plants were found in and around the lake, county officials are hopeful the Eurasia-native plant has been identified in time. In fact, no plants have been confirmed since July.
"Well I think we did the best we could informing the public," County Executive Greg Edwards told The Post-Journal. "The results proved it in our first mass search when so many people came out.
"Having that many people shows a tremendous outpouring of support. All that being said I think we did a great job. I've been encouraged that we have been able to find these plants and confirm where they are."
In July, the county executive called an impromptu press conference to announce - alongside Jeff Diers, county watershed coordinator - that portions of two water chestnut plants were located near Ball Creek and Dutch Hollow Creek. The plants were discovered by a consulting firm conducting a dredging feasibility study in the lake.
Edwards immediately summoned the Department of Environmental Conservation, Army Corps of Engineers and local state representatives. DEC officials have been on the lake and continue to monitor the invasive aquatic vegetation.
With fall now fast approaching, the county is hoping to identify as many water chestnuts as possible.
"We are planning for this fall," Edwards said. "So come spring we have the resources and knowledge and we will be ready to go first thing."
According to Diers, the plant can reach up to 15 feet in length, and without eradication can spread its seeds - overtaking vegetation in the lake. He added that each plant can produce up to 15 nuts per season, and within each nut can be hundreds of seeds.
So finding the plant early becomes crucial. "I'm hoping that this was a success," Diers said. "It's hard to search such a large area."
The county earlier this summer held a mass search on the lake, in which 40 volunteers turned out and three plants were discovered in the Bemus Creek area.
A second search has now been scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 15, at 8:30 a.m. at the Stow Park landing near the Bemus Point-Stow Ferry.
"We will be searching locations that we might have missed," Diers said. "Again, it's a very large lake, but I'm optimistic that only a few plants have been reported and removed. It's good news."
If a water chestnut plant is spotted, residents are asked call the watershed hotline at 363-4499, 753-4499 or 661-7499.