WHY do we need to remove Water Chestnuts from Sodus Bay?

Water chestnuts are one of the invasive species on Sodus Bay. They grow rapidly and can out-compete native aquatic vegetation. When they are allowed to grow, they can form impenetrable floating mats of vegetation.  These mats not only create a hazard for boaters but also can severely limit light penetration into the water and reduce or eliminate the growth of native aquatic plants beneath the canopy. The reduced plant growth combined with the decomposition of the water chestnut plants (which die back each year) can result in reduced levels of dissolved oxygen in the water, impact other aquatic organisms, and potentially lead to fish kills.

What has been done to curb Water Chestnuts growth in Sodus Bay?

Since 2012 (and before) Wayne County Soil and Water District, the Finger Lakes Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM), Save Our Sodus and other organizations have been pulling available resources (harvesters and operators), as well as canoe and kayak crews and volunteers for hand-pull harvesting of Water Chestnuts. That approach led to noticeable improvements and a noticeable reduction of Water Chestnuts in the Bay.

Usually, harvesting took place in late July – early August. Last year volunteers participated in 2 harvesting operations on July 23 and July 30th around Emerald Point of the Second Creek, Clark Creek and South of the Bay Bridge.

Click on the image to enlarge.

Volunteers Hank and Mary Stuart unloaded a pile of water chestnuts to a seaweed harvesting machine near Second Creek. July 23, 2016.

What has been done this year?

This year’s flood affected the annual water-chestnut cleanup efforts, but some work was done in spite of the challenges.

The highest water chestnuts concentration in Sodus Bay is on the South side of Sodus Bay Bridge.

That’s where most of the cleanup work has been performed in August of 2017 in order to reduce the generational invasion further into Sodus Bay.

NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s (NYSDEC) Division of Habitat and Regional Permits have been working with the Wayne County Soil and Water Conservation District on a European Water Chestnut Management plan for this area of the Lake Shore Marshes. The plan includes invasive species control, fisheries monitoring and wetland habitat creation.
The entire area is not being clear cut. The areas that are along the reed land areas do not have concentration and are being left natural. NYSDEC has inspected the work. The District has been inspecting and documenting the plant matter of the collected loads.

Click on the image to enlarge

It is a unique process that is designed to reduce the amount of water chestnuts and the seed bank in the Bay.
It will take years to implement the variety of approaches outlined in the process, but we expect to see a positive impact on the environment, oxygen levels in the water and overall water quality.
The unusual water levels have given us the opportunity to try out this new process. It will help us better understand what is needed to be able to continue this harvesting approach for a short specific period each year.
By the end of September, a more detailed report explaining what was managed and accomplished will be prepared by the Wayne County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Invasive Species that THREATEN Sodus Bay