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Water chestnut removal is planned along Nashua River

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PEPPERELL — Anyone who has taken a summer bike ride along the Nashua River Rail Trail, just south of the dam along Pepperell Pond, has probably noticed an abundance of vegetation floating along the shoreline. Like the brilliantly colored purple loosestrife flowers often seen in wetland areas, the flowering water chestnut plants in the Nashua River look pretty enough, but both are considered invasive species.

Over the past several years, water chestnuts have become a 45-acre problem, according to Nashua River Watershed Association Water Programs Director Martha Morgan.

“We (NWRA) support the removal of these plants because they really impair the ability of the area to support biological diversity,” said Morgan. “There are only water chestnuts there right now. It impedes fishing and hunting and boating. If you try to canoe or kayak through there, you just stop.”

“We (NWRA) support the removal of these plants because they really impair the ability of the area to support biological diversity,” said Morgan. “There are only water chestnuts there right now. It impedes fishing and hunting and boating. If you try to canoe or kayak through there, you just stop.”

The NWRA, which promotes the restoration and protection of “water quality and quantity for people, fish, and wildlife,” plans to conduct mechanical harvesting of the plants sometime in mid-July. The goal is to remove as many of the plants as possible before they drop their seeds.

“We want to stop the spread of these plants,” Morgan said.

Water chestnuts can quickly take over areas such as ponds and lakes, or rivers that have been contained by dams, such as in Pepperell. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service promotes taking out the water chestnut plants before they take over. Removing one plant can prevent up to 120 new plants from growing the following year, according to the government Web site.

Harvested plants will be dumped at two locations along the Pepperell shoreline just north and south of the peninsula along River Road, and hauled to an old gravel pit where they will be composted.

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