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Bill Hinkley

Bill Hinkley

Program Director, Massachusetts Environmental Trust (MET)

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Aquatic invasive species are an increasingly important topic for people who enjoy the waters of Massachusetts. These invaders include the Asian carp threatening Lake Michigan and zebra mussels and didymo (rock snot) in the Northeast, or snakehead fish in Florida. Earlier this month scientists reported the new discovery of European shrimp in Salem.

Invasive species often disrupt native ecosystems and can cause problems for people who want to use the water. Species such as zebra mussels can cover beaches with their sharp shells and damage docks and piers. Milfoil and water chestnut can grow so thick in lakes and waterways that boating and swimming are impossible.

Water chestnut infestation is a major problem in the Mystic River in Somerville and Medford. These infestations get tangled in boat propellers, make paddling almost impossible, and leave sharp, spiny seeds on the bottom. A recent grant from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust to Groundwork Somerville aims to substantially reduce the occurrence of water chestnut in the Mystic and help open the river for recreation. Removing these invasive plants will have tremendous benefits for the Mystic River ecosystem as native flora and fauna pushed out by the shade and density of water chestnut can return.

Part of this project involves removing the plants with a mechanical harvester. Other areas of the river need to be pulled by hand by people in canoes. The Groundwork Somerville Green Team – made up of local youth – has removed hundreds of bushels of water chestnut so far this summer.

This weekend you can participate in this effort too! A volunteer water chestnut pulling event will take place on Saturday, August 28 in Medford. If you are interested in attending, please RSVP to Brad at Groundwork Somerville at 617.455.1127 or brad@groundworksomerville.org.

Event information.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife / U.S. Coast Guard aquatic invasives information.

Department of Conservation and Recreation water chestnut fact sheet.

Video of water chestnut removal on the Mystic River.

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