A Success Story: Restoring Fiske Pond Through Mechanical Harvesting

February 2nd, 2017

Written by Industry Experts Jeff Castellani, Director of Mechanical Operations, and Emily Walsh, Environmental Scientist

3_Fisk Pond Harvester_e.jpgFiske Pond is a 67-acre waterbody located in Natick, Massachusetts within the Lake Cochituate sub-basin of the Sudbury River Watershed. Nestled in an urban area outside of Boston, Massachusetts, Fiske Pond was traditionally enjoyed by the community for recreational activities such as fishing and canoeing. Unfortunately, these leisurely activities became increasingly limited due to the dense mat of Water Chestnut (Trapa natans), an invasive aquatic plant that has proliferated since 2004. By 2008, the infestation had established a monoculture covering over 40 of the 67 acres, leading to major biological and recreational concerns. At this time, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) contacted SOLitude to initiate a management program.

Due to the competitive nature of invasive Water Chestnut, it was decided that mechanical and physical removal, via aquatic weed removal services and hand pulling, was the proper management approach for the removal and eventual eradication of the nuisance aquatic weed from Fiske Pond. Mechanical harvesting was an ideal management option due to the machine’s mobility and capability to remove plants from the water’s surface with minimal disturbance to the sediment below. This option was more attractive than herbicide applications because it removed the plant biomass and prevented the dense mat of vegetation from decaying, releasing nutrients back into the water column and contributing to further eutrophication of the pond.

On July 21, 2008, SOLitude began harvesting, supplemented with hand-pulling efforts along the shoreline. The 2008 harvesting effort lasted 24 days and yielded a total of 225 tons of plant material. The DCR was thrilled with the results and deemed the project a success. One DCR official commented, “Fiske is looking great. The project seemed overwhelming at first, but the guys did a great job.”

3_Fisk Pond Before & After_c.jpg

Since Water Chestnut is an annual plant, with seeds viable for 12 plus years, the lake weed removal process has been repeated each year to continually diminish the seed bed to elimination. The past nine years of harvesting have consisted of three years of aggressive mechanical removal (2008-2010), three years of limited mechanical removal (2011-2013) and three years of solely hand harvesting due to low densities and coverage (2014-2016). Since the project began, the total annual Water Chestnut plant tonnage removed has continually decreased each year. When SOLitude started in 2008, there was a total of 225 tons collected (approximately 4.5 million plants) compared to 0.115 tons collected (2,300 plants) in 2016.

The past nine years of mechanical and physical management at Fiske Pond have nearly eliminated the Water Chestnut, which now only sporadically occupies 2.8 acres of the original 40 acre infestation. The renewed open water space now provides habitat for native flora and fauna to re-populate, as well as increases water flow and dissolved oxygen levels within the waterbody. Hand harvesting for the limited amount of Water Chestnut will continue for several years until it is completely eradicated. The Fiske Pond Water Chestnut management project is a true success story; balance has been restored to the aquatic ecosystem and the community is once again enjoying canoeing and fishing in the pond.

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SOLitude Lake Management is a nationwide environmental firm committed to providing sustainable solutions that improve water quality, enhance beauty, preserve natural resources and reduce our environmental footprint. SOLitude’s team of aquatic resource management professionals specializes in the development and execution of customized lake, stormwater pond, wetland and fisheries management programs that include water quality testing and restoration, nutrient remediation, algae and aquatic weed control, installation and maintenance of fountains and aeration systems, bathymetry, shoreline erosion restoration, mechanical harvesting and hydro-raking, lake vegetation studies, biological assessments, habitat evaluations, and invasive species management. Services and educational resources are available to clients nationwide, including homeowners associations, multi-family and apartment communities, golf courses, commercial developments, ranches, private landowners, reservoirs, recreational and public lakes, municipalities, drinking water authorities, parks, and state and federal agencies. SOLitude Lake Management is a proud member of the Rentokil Steritech family of companies in North America.

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