Monday, June 8, 2015

Stewardship Spotlight: Invasive Species Prevention & Removal

Guest blog post by Colleen Ryan, an active member of the Norton Waterbodies Committee, a group of volunteers trying to find a solution to the invasive plant problem in Norton, Massachusetts.  

Hello American Paddlers. It’s nice to have an opportunity to chat with you about a serious issue affecting paddlers across the United States. Aquatic invasive plants are choking the life out of lakes and ponds where many of us paddle, fish, and wildlife sightsee. I paddle in a small town in Massachusetts called Norton and our lakes and ponds have been inundated with invasive plant life for a number of years. Sadly, because of challenging budget issues affecting most cities and towns, saving the lakes and ponds has not been a priority. There is good news though. Our Norton officials, with the help of volunteers and paddlers, are working together to change this course.

Norton is located in Southeastern, MA. We have three small ponds and one large lake called the Norton Reservoir. The three major invasive plants that are destroying our water bodies are eurasian and variable milfoil, fanwort, and water chestnut. These invasive plants grow quite rapidly with the help of fertilizers and other nutrients in the water. They suffocate the native plants. They impede paddlers from being able to paddle, fish, and sightsee. Our Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation has been a great resource for us to identify the plants and learn different ways to address the problems they cause.

In 2013 the Norton Board of Selectman organized a Water Bodies Committee to address the challenges. The Committee is comprised of volunteers who are invested in saving the water bodies. Without this effort the lake and ponds would become murky swamps. The Committee did research and public education to understand the issues and inform the residents. At the October 2013 town meeting, residents allocated $50,000 to develop a plan to clean up the water bodies. In October 2014, residents allocated $800,000 to start the permitting process and a three year treatment process. The permitting process should be completed by June 2015. The treatment process for milfoil and fanwort is done chemically and the treatment process for water chestnut is hand harvesting. We must make a long term commitment for success.

The public education process has been very successful for us. We have identified ways that all residents and paddlers can make their contribution. 

Here are some ways we can all work together to help:
  1. Clean our boats before and after use, preferably with hot water and letting it dry, and definitely before we paddle in different lakes and ponds. Preventing the spread of invasive plants is a necessity for success.
  2. Do not to litter. We promote a carry in - carry out program. We are very fortunate that the Norton Kayaking Company sponsors a Norton Reservoir clean up at least once a year. This is a great opportunity for high school and college students to learn how to kayak and help out.
  3. We encourage residents who live around the lakes and ponds not to use fertilizers near the water and to be careful about storm water drainage.
  4. We also promote how important it is not to feed the waterfowl. 

We continue to educate the public through newspaper articles, posting educational materials at the local library, and assuring that information about saving the lakes and ponds is broadcast on the Norton Media Center TV station and website. Additionally, we have a Norton Water Bodies Facebook page which helps us stay in touch with paddlers, residents, and committee members. As fellow paddlers we encourage you to become knowledgeable about what aquatic invasive plants may be affecting where you paddle. Get involved and make your contribution.

Click here for more information on aquatic invasive species and prevention techniques. 

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