Water Scouts:

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††††††† The Knee Deep Club is undertaking a lake wide effort to protect Lake Hopatcong from the threat of an invasive non native aquatic plant that is spreading rapidly across the state.The plant is named Water Chestnut, but it is not related to the same named plant that is used in oriental cuisine.

††††††††††† Its Latin name is Trapa Natans, and more information can be found on line, but here are some basic facts.It was first imported from Europe in the 1880ís and has wreaked havoc throughout New England and many Mid-Atlantic states.It was first reported in New Jersey in 2001 and has been spreading rapidly ever since.

††††††††††† It has a terrible negative impact on any water it has found itís way into.It grows and spreads so fast that it often makes the water body unusable for any recreation by the time the public becomes aware that it is there.It is a floating aquatic and as such, creates a heavy canopy that restricts sunlight from reaching submersed plants choking out all other plant life.This can result in oxygen depletion and fish kills, but also the loss of other beneficial plants can impact the entire food chain.Without the submersed native plants there is no cover for fry or fingerling species and heavy predation occurs.Also those native plant species are part of the ecosystem that supports other life forms that are integral to the food chain.Small snails, crustaceans, grass shrimp, larvae & zooplankton are dependent on that lost habitat.

††††††††††† The KDC first became aware of this threat in 2009 when a super large colony of this specie became a major concern just one mile down stream in Lake Musconetcong.The plant had been in the lake for only 3-4 years but had already covered almost 20% of that lakeís surface.Initially it was felt by the club that the plant was likely being spread from boaters transporting it as they moved their boats from lake to lake.But further research shows, that it is most often transported by waterfowl that swim through the plants and the seeds (that have 4 sharp barbs) get caught on the birds that can transport them to other waterbodies.

††††††††††† With this large colony just down stream itís only a matter of time before it finds its way into Lake Hopatcong.It requires relatively shallow water (>8Ē<) but has been found in water as deep as 16í.It also requires a soft nutrient rich bottom, none or very slow current and full day sun.That can be found in approx. 1/3 of Lake Hopatcongís acreage.

††††††††††† One seed that takes root will quickly spread at a frightening rate.When it sprouts it reaches the surface forming a cluster of leaves called a rosette and will eventually grow up to 10-15 rosettes.Each Rosetteproduces up to 20seeds.So that one single seed can quickly grow into acres in just a couple of years.At that point it is very difficult and expensive to treat the problem.In northern Lake Champlain over $4 million was spent and the plant has still not been eradicated.However if it is discovered early (either an individual plant or 1st generation growth) it can be effectively removed with great success and minimal effort.

††††††††††† With the hope of discovering it as early as possible KDC has partnered with several other lake groups to inspect the entire shore line so that we can find it early and remove it before it becomes too big of a problem.Some of the other groups that have supported this effort are the Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club, Antique & Classic Boat Society, Garden State Yacht Club and Homestead Beach Assoc.Lake Shawnee has also committed to conduct a similar survey to reduce any upstream threat.The club also hopes to use this as an opportunity to educate the entire lake community.

††††††††††† The 70 plus paddlers that will be conducting the survey between June 4thó13th will all be wearing bright yellow hats with the logo Lake Hopatcong Water Scouts and will have handouts to give to any lakefront home owners or boaters they encounter.The more educated the public is, the more likely we will be successful with this project.Unfortunately the threat never goes away, so we must all work hard in our outreach so that it becomes part of the culture of the lake community.

††††††††††† The plant is easily identified.It has an arrow shaped leaf about two inches long and wide with both sides of the leaf having a distinctiveserrated (saw toothed) edge.If found the Water Scouts will mark the plant with pink tape, mark the location on their maps and take a photo.Then they will report it to the club, which will inspect, verify and put a removal plan together that will be implemented before August when the plant goes to seed.

††††††††††† The Club hopes to continue with organized surveys in future years but the long term answer is to educate the public on what to look for and what to do if found.More information can be found at kneedeepclub.org