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Water Chestnut Just As Big A Threat To Lake As Algal Blooms

Water Chestnut Drawing Photo courtesy of New York State Invasive Species Information

As if we didn’t have enough problems to deal with on Chautauqua Lake, now the european water chestnut has made an unwelcome reappearance.

The plant can be identified by its small triangularly shaped leaves, which are between 2 and 4 centimeters wide that form a rosette on the surface of the water. Water chestnut plants form small white flowers in July which persist throughout the summer. Their seeds or nutlets are generally 3 centimeters in length and contain four sharp barbs.

July and August have seen discovery of the plant in the Chautauqua Lake outlet in Celoron, with more than 100 of water chestnut plants pulled out of the inlet just a couple of weeks ago.

You may remember the water chestnut. When it was first confirmed in Chautauqua Lake eight years ago there was a almost a sense of panic about what the water chestnut could do to Chautauqua Lake. If left unchecked, the water chestnut can form thick mats that make it impossible to fish, boat or swim on a lake. Lake users were pretty vigilant for the first couple of years as the county, under the direction of then-County Executive Greg Edwards, made eradicating the water chestnut a top priority.

The water chestnut is just as big a threat to the health and viability of Chautauqua Lake as harmful algal blooms and invasive vegetation. Everyone who sets foot in the Chatuauqua Lake watershed needs to be on the lookout the european water chestnut. There are several organizations to contact if you happen upon the water chestnut — RTPI at JTownsend@rtpi.org, the Audubon Community Nature Center at info@auduboncnc.org, WNY PRISM at wnyprism@buffalostate.edu or the Chautauqua Lake Watershed and Management Alliance at twest@chautauquaalliance.org.

“We need all hands on deck,” Edwards said in 2012 at a news conference to spotlight the water chestnut’s arrival on Chautauqua Lake.

His words are as true now as they were then.

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