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October 29, 2009

Oswego County Rallies Forces to Battle Water Chestnuts on the Oswego River

Several agencies are working with Oswego County to investigate ways to remove water chestnut plants from the Oswego River. Pictured from left are Karen Noyes, Oswego County Department of Community Development, Tourism and Planning; Angie Huebner and Dennis Rymer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; John DeHollander, Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation District; Chris Adriance, Canal Corporation; Byron Rupp, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and Jamie White, staff member of Sen. Charles Schumer’s Office.

OSWEGO - Oswego County officials have joined with the state Canal Corporation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for assistance in battling the water chestnut plant, an invasive species which is rapidly spreading in the Oswego River.

The action comes in response to an appeal by the Legislature’s Tourism Advisory Council for assistance in controlling the plant. Richard Drosse, a Granby resident who has been removing the plants from the river by hand for several years, reported to the County Legislature’s Economic Development Planning Committee that the rapid spread of water chestnut is hindering recreational activities because boaters and anglers are no longer able to access certain sections of the Oswego River.

The County Soil and Water Conservation District has coordinated removal of water chestnuts on local waterways in the past, but the agency has not been able to find a source of federal, state or local funding after funding was cut several years ago.

“The legislative committee agreed that we need to take a proactive approach in addressing the water chestnut infestation. It’s estimated that $60,000 is needed for chemical removal of the plants next year. We will try to raise this through grants and by working with our partners along the canal system,” said Economic Development and Planning Committee Chairman Morris Sorbello, District 23, Granby. “It will require a cooperative effort to raise the funds needed for long-term eradication and control of this plant.”

A group of Oswego County elected officials and staff, including Legislators Sorbello and Louella LeClair, vice chairwoman of the Economic Development and Planning Committee, County Administrator Philip Church, Soil and Water Conservation District Director John DeHollander, and David Turner, Director of the Community Development, Tourism and Planning Department, recently met with Canal Corporation staff to seek assistance and assess the situation.

“It is definitely a positive step forward now that we have the Canal Corporation supporting us,” said Legislator Louella LeClair, District 25, Fulton. “Director Mantello understands the gravity of the situation. The fact that they have appointed a staff person from the regional office to work with the county will definitely be helpful for us. The water chestnut is a very prolific species that is affecting other waterways in New York State as well. Our committee is taking a proactive approach to identify possible sources of funding to help us with this problem.”

Carmella R. Mantello, Director of the New York State Canal Corporation, said, “The Canal Corporation is pleased to work with Oswego County officials in the fight against eradicating the water chestnut and the negative impact this invasive plant has on the shoreline of the Oswego Canal. As a member of the New York State Invasive Species Council, the Canal Corporation is committed to working with our partners to minimize the threat and spread of invasive species throughout the 524-mile New York State Canal System.”

With the assistance of Senator Charles Schumer, members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, along with staff from the County Department of Community Development, Tourism and Planning, the Canal Corporation, and the Soil and Water Conservation District, traveled the Oswego River by boat last week to look at the extent of water chestnut infestation. The local group is hoping that some of the federal funds going to Great Lakes projects can be used to address the problem in Oswego County.

“For a number of years we have approached federal representatives for their assistance in removing invasive plants from our water bodies, but we have never been successful,” said John DeHollander of the Soil and Water Conservation District. “We are thankful to Senator Schumer’s office for showing an interest. We hope that we can tap into some of the federal resources for the Great Lakes drainage basin, which includes the Oswego River.”

In addition to Legislators Sorbello and LeClair, the Economic Development and Planning Committee includes legislators Jack Beckwith, District 21; Shawn Doyle, District 3; Arthur Gearsbeck, District 6; Douglas Malone, District 20; and Arthur Ospelt, District 12.

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