Thursday, 20 June 2019 12:10

Weeding Out the Invasion

Saratoga PLAN (Preserving Land and Nature) and the Kayak Shak will be hosting a water chestnut harvesting for Fish Creek on June 29 from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Water chestnuts are an invasive species in Saratoga county that pose two main threats. First, the seeds have long spikes that can injure a person carelessly walking in a river’s shallows. Second, the plant’s leaves rest on the water’s surface, blocking out sunlight and oxygen from the natural ecosystem.

Due to the plant’s stem growing from the seed to the surface and the leaves forming a mat on the surface, it also can be an obstacle for swimming and boaters alike, tangling limbs, oars and anything else that is trying to move through the water.

Capital Mohawk PRISM (Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management), which is also partnered with PLAN for the event, was unable to respond to multiple calls to elaborate on water chestnut’s dangerous and invasive species in general due to the Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator being on scene at the Hudson River all week.

“They’re helping as far as educating the volunteers that will be doing the pulling, and the rowing clubs are donating boats,” Executive Director for PLAN Maria Trabka said.

She added that mechanical harvesting boats are available for the water chestnut, but Fish Creek is too shallow for them, and so the plants must be harvested by hand.

“What it can’t do is get into the nooks and crannies along the shoreline,” Trabka said. “That’s where the kayakers can get to pull the weeds.”

However, Trabka mentioned that fully removing the plant was unnecessary to a successful harvest.

“Say we’re pulling and the stem breaks and the seed is still down at the bottom,” she said. “That seed is not good for next year, it’s only good that year.”

For the most part, the event requires volunteers to bring their own boat and be willing to get wet and muddy. However, people who pre-register with the Kayak Shak will be provided a kayak.

Jonah Stallard, manager of the Kayak Shak, said that on average, they have approximately 20 boats available for the volunteers, more on a slow day and less on a weekend due to the more people coming to the Shak for recreation.

He added that the harvesting would not change the Shak’s normal operations, provided it took place during the week.

Stallard also mentioned that up until now, water chestnuts have already posed some problems, clogging up boat props, taking up dock space and so on, and that they have needed to simply remove the plants by hand.

PLAN and volunteers harvested water chestnuts from Fish Creek last year, as well. Prior to that, they harvested water chestnuts from Lake Lonely for approximately seven years. This year, those in attendance will decide on further work dates during the month.

“On the 29th, when all of the people come together who are interested in keeping the waterway clear, they’re going to talk amongst themselves to set the dates for future harvests,” Trabka said. “It’d probably be a weekly effort, people can come and go as they’re available.”

“Theidealistoremovethetop of the plant that’s collecting sunlight and remove it before the plant can set seed.” She clarified that the general time frame for harvesting was late June to early August.

Trabka said that currently they are expecting upwards of 40 volunteers for the event and that the Skidmore club, Saratoga Rowing Club and Saratoga Rowing Association were all going to encourage their members to come to the event.

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