ROXBURY, NJ - Knowing that water chestnut removal is needed each year to contain the invasive plant species, the people involved in Lake Musconetcong’s annual hand-pull hope to see an increased turnout this July at Port Morris Park.
Herbicides are used to eliminate water chestnut but aren’t a perfect method of managing them because of the location of the inlet of the lake, said AmeriCorps Watershed Ambassador Melyssa Garcia.
“So the hand-pulls provide the most effective way of eliminating the water chestnut,” Garcia said. “We have to come at it every year and do these hand-pulls to try to eradicate it from the lake.”
The lake has a mechanical weed harvester as well, but it’s not capable of reaching all corners of the water body. The volunteers, riding in kayaks and canoes, are able to access the shallow areas of the lake and remove the weakly-rooted water chestnut by hand, Garcia said.
The water chestnut plants deplete oxygen levels in the lake, which has a negative effect on the native plants, fish and everything connected to them in the food chain. They also clog the waterways, tangling and damaging boat motors and making it hard for kayakers and canoers to paddle.
The plants grow from seed pods that are transported by boats and animals from other bodies of water and they can remain on the lake bottom for substantial periods of time waiting for the perfect conditions before blooming.
The water chestnuts were first noticed in 2008 when the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) conducted an aquatic plants survey and discovered trace amounts. The next year, the survey found 30 percent of the lake covered by the species.
This year’s event, scheduled for July 16 at 10 a.m., will mark the fifth annual cleanup. About 70 volunteers pitched in four years ago, but only around 15 showed up last year, Garcia said.
So Garcia made her pitch to increase participation for this year’s event.
“It’s a great day to just come out and be in canoes and kayaks and enjoy the lake,” she said. “And at the same time we’re removing the plant from the waterways, so increasing water quality and things like that. And it would just be a really great event to be out in the sunshine and be out on the lake.”