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Video: Work begins to clear invasive water chestnut from Tonawanda Creek

Water chestnut has flourished in Tonawanda Creek, covering the creek from shore to shore near Ellicott Island Park. Efforts to remove the plant, and hopefully stop it from spreading to the Niagara River, will begin this week. (Photo by Derek Gee / Buffalo News)

TONAWANDA -- A mechanical harvester will arrive this afternoon on the banks of the Tonawanda Creek to begin an attack on an invasive plant that has choked the waters around Ellicott Creek Island.

The aquatic invasive species known as European water chestnut has spread across a six-acre area of the creek. The dense vegetation has crowded out other aquatic life and blocked boats from entering the water.

"It's a pretty sizable area," Michael A. Goehle, an aquatic invasive species coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said. "There's no way you can get a boat in or do any kind of recreational activity in it."

Crews from Erie County and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local volunteers plan to spend the next five days pulling the plant from the water -- first with a mechanical harvester and then by hand.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper are looking for volunteers to help with the work this week. Volunteers available to work Tuesday through Friday should contact the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at 691-5456.

Those available Saturday should call Bryan LoVullo at Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper at 852-7483, Ext. 23, or e-mail him at

Goehle said officials are worried that the plant -- likely brought to Tonawanda Creek by boat -- could spread to other creeks and rivers in the area.

"It doesn't take long before the water chestnut just completely takes over," Goehle said.

The nearest location with a heavy invasion of the water chestnut, Goehle said, is in the Syracuse region. 

Goehle said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expects to need to do the mechanical harvesting of the plant in Tonawanda Creek for three to four years before it gradually declines and disappears.

Read more about the six-acre patch of water chestnut in this story by News Staff Reporter Janice L. Habuda that appeared in The News last week.

See the plant and hear more about its impact in this video of crews working this morning: 

--Denise Jewell Gee

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