B'ville: Water chestnut still a problem on waterways

According to Cooper, the Canal Authority will not address the issue unless navigating the canal becomes a problem. Borchik added the Canal Authority decreased the width of the channel, which is indicated by buoys, so there are no water chestnuts in the channel and therefore no problem navigating it.

Although the water chestnut could grow across the entire width of the river, it has not done so due to the current, Borchik said, and thus the responsibility rests largely with the landowners and property owners to do something about it.

Methods include cutting to eliminate their food supply and spraying them with chemicals. But Borchik said he thinks the best way to get rid of it is to pull the entire plant out of the water -- including the sharp "nut" that roots each plant in the ground. This can be done manually or with expensive machinery called a "harvester."

Compounding the water chestnut problem is the presence of other invasive species in the water. Eurasian water milfoil, a long, feathery weed, has a similar effect on boats but is not as much of a problem. Zebra mussels, which were a major problem before the water chestnut, have diminished but Borchik said they could make a comeback in the next few years.

Both Cooper and Borchik agreed it would take a tremendous amount of money and manpower to eradicate the water chestnut.

"We don't have an excellent, steadfast way that gets rid of them beside doing something year after year after year," Borchik said.

The Chesapeake Bay and areas in Vermont and Maine have had success fighting the species, but Borchik said he thinks a community effort is necessary.

"If every homeowner and business volunteered one day to go out there and rake up water chestnuts, I think the difference would be amazing," he said.

Brian Borchik, service manager at Cooper's Marina, holds a water chestnut. The underside of the plant reveals air pockets that allow the leaves to float on top of the water as well as pods of seeds that burst to grow new plants.

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