The Otsego County Conservation Association received $40,000 from the state on June 14 for aquatic invasive species removal efforts, as part of the state Department of Environmental Conservation's Invasive Species Grant Program. 

The grant, funded through the state Environmental Protection Fund, will go through 2021, said OCCA Program Director Jeff O'Handley. The money will support OCCA's ongoing work of hand-pulling water chestnuts, native to Eurasia and Africa, from Goodyear Lake and Silver Lake. Goodyear Lake makes up one portion of the Susquehanna River's 444-foot wind from Cooperstown down to the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, an environmentally and economically important watershed. 

O'Handley said the money will be used to purchase equipment OCCA needs to carry out the project, some staff time, advertising and surveying of at-risk areas for frogbit or water chestnut spread. OCCA will also begin hand-pulling European frogbit from Silver Lake. The Silver Lake frogbit infestation, reported last summer, is the first reported instance of the species in Otsego County, O'Handley said. 

"It's something we really want to get ahead of and nip in the bud before it spreads elsewhere," he said. 

Water chestnut can form thick floating mats of vegetation which can create hazards for boaters and others on the water, according to NYIS.info, a state invasive species information website. The mats can also limit the ability of light to penetrate the water which can negatively impact underwater plant growth. Frogbit harms aquatic life and lake goers the same way. 

The water chestnut develops sharp spines which are very painful and have the ability to puncture a car tire if they wash that far ashore, O'Handley said. Water chestnut seeds can stay alive for up to 12 years, according to NYIS.info

To help prevent invasive species spread, O'Handley said OCCA suggests cleaning off any plant and mud material and draining water from the boat when leaving a water body. OCCA is hosting a water chestnut removal event June 28 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Silver Lake. Interested volunteers can sign up online at occainfo.org or by calling O'Handley at 607-282-4087. 

Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at skarikehalli@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_ShwetaK on Twitter.

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