Opportunities / Progress

Removing Water Chestnut – Getting it Done

What do an ECO AmeriCorps member, a retired Water Resources manager, a Fayston home schooler and his dad, a UVM Rubenstein intern, a Lake Champlain Lake Steward, and five Agency of Natural Resources’ staff have in common? They love recreating in the outdoors, share a passion for Vermont’s water resources, and understand why managing aquatic invasive species is critical to protect the resources they – and so many other Vermont outdoor enthusiasts – care deeply about.

Recently, these 11 individuals spent hours on a hot, humid Friday – thunderstorms looming in the west – searching the East Branch of Dead Creek in Addison for the invasive plant, water chestnut.

Water chestnut, an introduced non-native aquatic plant.

Water chestnut, an introduced non-native aquatic plant.

First confirmed in Vermont in 1962, this introduced annual plant can form nearly impenetrable mats, has the ability to choke our beneficial native aquatic plants, provides little nutritional or habitat value to wildlife, can deplete water oxygen levels critical to sustain aquatic life, and is a nightmare for aquatic recreationalists.

Although known from Lake Champlain and 30 other Vermont waterbodies, the Vermont Lakes and Ponds Program – along with countless volunteers, The Nature Conservancy, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Friends of Missisquoi Bay, Vermont Audubon, The Lake Champlain Basin Program and numerous other partners – has successfully reduced this species’ presence in Vermont over the last three decades. As an annual, successful control is possible if water chestnut plants are removed before they set and drop seed.

ECO AmeriCorps member, Grant Taylor, getting it done, removing water chestnut and trash from the East Branch.

ECO AmeriCorps member, Grant Taylor, getting it done, removing water chestnut and trash from the East Branch.

On a mission to control an aquatic invasive species, this crew got it done, taking the needed action to ensure the East Branch remains a healthy resource for the wild animals, native aquatic plants and outdoor enthusiasts that rely on it, as well as other Vermont water resources, as habitat or recreational opportunity. An estimated 1823 water chestnut plants, weighing in at over 290 pounds were removed by hand harvest from the East Branch, part of the Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area, an area open to the public for regulated hunting, fishing, hiking and wildlife viewing, and considered by many as the premier birding spot in Addison County.

For additional information about water chestnut and how you can help control and prevent the spread of this and other aquatic invasive species in Vermont, visit aquatic invasive species.