AMESBURY — Plans are being made to do battle with a little-known assailant lurking in spots along the Great Marsh: the pepperweed.
Mass Audubon specifically plans to target Deer Island this summer, removing the invasive weed with the help of inmate work crews from Middleton Jail.
"We're aiming to pull (the weed) instead of spraying a bunch of chemicals on Deer Island," Liz Duff of Mass Audubon said.
Duff estimates there's about a Dumpster's worth of pepperweed on the small island between Amesbury and Newburyport. She is looking to get a supervised crew of inmates to help out with the physical labor.
Mass Audubon and other organizations have had their sights trained on Deer Island since the summer of 2009 when a group of students set out in kayaks to map pepperweed along the Merrimack River.
The group launched their kayaks in East Haverhill and first came across the weed in Amesbury near Lowell's Boat Shop on Main Street.
After that, there was a large amount of pepperweed found on Deer Island.
The plan is still in the early stages. The group will work with the Amesbury Conservation Commission for the permitting.
The reason for targeting Deer Island is to stop the weed from spreading farther inland toward Amesbury. Seeds of a pepperweed float and are transported on the tides.
"Pepperweed can spread quite rapidly," Duff said, adding that seeds can travel as far as 100 meters in the Merrimack River.
Pepperweed was first found in Ipswich 15 years ago and is believed to have made its way east via shipments of sugar beet seeds, according to Duff. It can be found throughout the Great Marsh, with many identified spots in Newburyport, Newbury and Salisbury, hundreds in Ipswich, two spots in Essex and one known area in Gloucester.
WANT TO HELP?
If interested in helping Mass Audubon pull pepperweed this summer, contact Liz Duff at 781-392-6507 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.