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Push is On to Combat Hydrilla in Connecticut River

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Environmental experts suggest anyone traveling on the Connecticut River clean, drain and dry their boats when they take them out of the water to keep from spreading hydrilla. (Kelsey Wentling/CT River Conservancy)
Environmental experts suggest anyone traveling on the Connecticut River clean, drain and dry their boats when they take them out of the water to keep from spreading hydrilla. (Kelsey Wentling/CT River Conservancy)
 By Michayla Savitt - Producer, Contact
June 9, 2021

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. - Environmental groups say eradicating a growing amount of the invasive species hydrilla in the Connecticut River requires a team effort between lawmakers, other stakeholders and the public.

More than 770 acres of hydrilla were detected during 2019 and 2020. Even more has been found since then, said Kelsey Wentling, a river steward with the Connecticut River Conservancy. She said groups are working on some pilot projects with state funding to test different treatment techniques, but they're small projects relative to the size of the problem. Wentling said hydrilla could harm the river's entire ecosystem.

"This has an impact on the ecological integrity of the water," she said. "It can lead to drops in the oxygen levels, it can alter temperature, and it's just not suitable habitat for aquatic life in the river."

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., has asked the Senate Appropriations Committee for $100 million over the next four years to create a multistate, rapid-response task force to find long-term solutions to the hydrilla infestation. In the short term, it's recommended that boaters avoid thick mats of hydrilla, not try to harvest it, and wash off all watercraft to prevent spread to other bodies of water.

Wentling encouraged anyone who'll be on the river in a boat to educate themselves about hydrilla. She said the species can not only clog the waterways and prevent passage, but also spread further.

"If a boat propeller goes through a patch of hydrilla and cuts up the plant," she said, "those fragments can then start moving, downriver or into a new cove, and re-establish themselves and create a new infestation there."

According to the nonprofit Connecticut Resource Conservation and Development, an estimated 13,000 to 15,000 jobs are tied to the river's economy in the Northeast region. More information on how to identify hydrilla is online at ctriver.org.

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