MAYVILLE - What started as a frantic search in Chautauqua Lake for the invasive species dubiously known as water chestnuts has now turned to optimism.
Two months after a half-dozen plants were found in and around the lake, county officials are hopeful the Eurasia-native plant has been identified in time. In fact, no plants have been confirmed since July.
"Well I think we did the best we could informing the public," County Executive Greg Edwards said. "The results proved it in our first mass search when so many people came out.
"Having that many people shows a tremendous outpouring of support. All that being said I think we did a great job. I've been encouraged that we have been able to find these plants and confirm where they are."
In July, the county executive called an impromptu press conference to announce - alongside Jeff Diers, county watershed coordinator - that portions of two water chestnut plants were located near Ball Creek and Dutch Hollow Creek. The plants were discovered by a consulting firm conducting a dredging feasibility study in the lake.
Edwards immediately summoned the Department of Environmental Conservation, Army Corps of Engineers and local state representatives. DEC officials have been on the lake and continue to monitor the invasive aquatic vegetation.
With fall now fast approaching, the county is hoping to identify as many water chestnuts as possible.
"We are planning for this fall," Edwards said. "So come spring we have the resources and knowledge and we will be ready to go first thing."
According to Diers, the plant can reach up to 15 feet in length, and without eradication can spread its seeds - overtaking vegetation in the lake. He added that each plant can produce up to 15 nuts per season, and within each nut can be hundreds of seeds.
So finding the plant early becomes crucial. "I'm hoping that this was a success," Diers said. "It's hard to search such a large area."
The county earlier this summer held a mass search on the lake, in which 40 volunteers turned out and three plants were discovered in the Bemus Creek area.
A final mass search for water chestnuts in Chautauqua Lake will be held Saturday, Sept. 15 at 8:30 a.m. at the Stow Park landing of the Bemus Point-Stow Ferry.
"We will be searching locations that we might have missed," Diers said. "Again, it's a very large lake, but I'm optimistic that only a few plants have been reported and removed. It's good news."
"Many residents have volunteered their time and service to help us identify and ultimately eradicate the water chestnut from Chautauqua Lake," Edwards said. "As we concentrate our final mass search on Chautauqua Lake's lower basin, I hope residents and even community service groups will come out to help us with our search."
"Although this will be the last mass search for the water chestnut this season, we will continue to monitor Chautauqua Lake and affected areas," Diers said. "We have only found a few cases of water chestnuts in Chautauqua Lake, but this spring we will have a better understanding if our quick action and endeavors to contain the plant have paid off."
Saturday's search will be split up into the following 11 zones:
Zone 1: Shore Acres- Bridge to Englewood Development.
Zone 2: Arnolds Bay-Englewood Development to Second Stream.
Zone 3: Bellview-Second Stream to Bellview Point.
Zone 4: Driftwood-Bellview Point to Dutch Hollow Creek.
Zone 5: Fluvanna-Dutch Hollow Creek to Launch at Denslow Avenue.
Zone 6: Chadakoin-Launch to Second Bend in Chadakoin/Celoron Park.
Zone 7: Burtis Bay- Celoron Park to End of Lakewood Rod & Gun.
Zone 8: Lakewood- Lakewood Rod & Gun to Shermans Bay.
Zone 9: Shermans Bay: Shermans Bay to Ashville Bay.
Zone 10: Ashville Bay- Ashville Bay to Cheney Point.
Zone 11: Hadley Bay- Cheney Point to Bridge.
Volunteers should report to the Stow Ferry Park where they will be given a short presentation on the water chestnut before being assigned to a zone.
Residents interested in participating should call the watershed hotline at 363-4499, 753-4499 or 661-7499.
If a water chestnut plant is spotted, residents are asked call the watershed hotline at 363-4499, 753-4499 or 661-7499.