The Seneca River Over-Run by Invasive Water Chestnuts

The Onondaga co. Civic Center is home to several public offices including the Health Department. (c) 2017 Lileana Pearson


Water Chestnuts Take Over the Seneca River

By Lileana Pearson, SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC NEWS ) – The first time Russell Nemecek, the Health Department‘s Water Quality Program Coordinator, heard about water chestnuts in Central New York was in the early eighties. Now, he hears about them on a daily basis.

The invasive plant migrated from Asia first as an ornamental plant, but over time the plant spread with the help of birds and other animals eating their seeds and leaving them in their droppings.

The Seneca River currently suffers from an over population of the plant. They grow so thick it makes it difficult to boat, kayak, canoe, and fish. Houses on the water can also loose property value if the water is obstructed by the plant.

If enough water chestnuts grow in one area it could potentially use the water’s oxygen supply making it difficult for fish and other aquatic animals to coexist.

The Onondaga Co. Health Department is combating this outcome by treating the plants with a combination of herbicide and a bonding agent that helps the herbicide stick to the plant, and not enter the water.

“We use ClearCast and Rodeo, which are the common names.” Said Nemecek

Applied using what looks like a water hose, the herbicide is sprayed on the leaves which cover most of the water’s surface.

In areas where water chestnuts grow less, it is safer to hand pull the plants. The Health Department isn’t able to do this as often due to the cost. However, thanks to volunteers from SUNY ESF and local bass fishing clubs, they have been able to utilize this option a couple times in the past years.

Removing water chestnuts in the Seneca River is a yearly project.