(Possible headline for state newspaper – July 2015)
State Closes Lake Fork Due To Giant Salvinia Infestation
Lake Fork, one of the premier bass fishing lakes in the state of Texas has become a victim of the invasive plant Giant Salvinia (GS). During the past two years, growth of the plant has exploded causing limited launching at ramp facilities and the closing of area businesses. The total number of lakes closed in Texas due to GS has now reached 10 and the number closed in Louisiana has reached 15. To date there are an additional 14 lakes in Texas and 16 in Louisiana that have substantial amounts of GS to deal with.
A native of Brazil, GS is a floating, rootless fern that can double its mass in less than a week. Left unchecked, GS can form mats up to 5 feet thick preventing light from entering the water, and stopping the growth of tiny organisms that form the base of the food chain. The water becomes acidic and decomposing plants consume the oxygen needed by fish and other aquatic life. The lake basically dies.
In past years the seriousness of GS was understood, however, even though members of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept (TPWD) and Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Department (LWFD) voiced concern, the problem was not properly addressed due to lack of manpower and funding. As in most issues, the stop sign is never put up at the intersection until a number of deaths occur. In the case of GS, proper attention to addressing the issue did not occur until we had basically lost a few of our lakes.
So where do we go from here? Even though our states have introduced plant eating weevils and have invested huge amounts of money and time for herbicide spraying, the plant just seems to continue its path of destruction. Prevention and maintenance are the real issues now since once GS gets into a body of water it is almost impossible to completely get rid of it.
State officials and the governors from both Texas and Louisiana are meeting this week to discuss a cooperative action plan to address the rapidly spreading GS. Five additional lakes in the Austin area have reported GS in their waters as have southern lakes such as Amistad, Choke Canyon and Falcon. The negative economic effect of GS to Texas and Louisiana runs into the billions of dollars.
The TPWD announced today that they have requested Federal assistance of an additional $10 million dollars to keep existing ramp facilities open in state lakes. Last year the state spent $5 million dollars in this effort but GS outbreaks in state waters have exceeded both the funding and manpower available to fight this issue successfully.
As most of you anglers know, the $15 fee to launch a boat on any Texas or Louisiana lake also includes an additional $5 fee to hose your boat down with the chemical RylanZall. This chemical kills any plant residue that may be on the boat or trailer. Many anglers are protesting this additional charge but the mandatory state law is firm on this matter.
Fines for transporting GS to other locations are now set at $1000 per plant with second offenders losing their fishing license for one year. Third time offenders lose their license permanently. Violations after this involve hefty fines and jail time.
Few bass tournaments are being scheduled in Texas/Louisiana waters that have historically been recognized as providing some of the best fishing in the nation. The loss of money related to these tournaments is staggering.
Toledo Bend now has an estimated 100,000 surface acres that are infested with GS. The only ramps available to the public are three on the southern end of the lake.
Toledo Bend is not only struggling to keep these ramp facilities open but it also has major problems below the dam. GS that has passed thru the dam while generating electricity has now started to block all irrigation activities from the dam down to the Port Arthur area. SRA/Texas announced last week that a weekly cleaning of the turbines has to take place to insure that complete blockage does not occur.
For the first time in history the famous McDonalds Big Bass Tournament was cancelled on Sam Rayburn because of clogged and unusable ramp facilities
Last year, Caddo Lake where folks have fought a courageous battle with the plant since 2007 was officially closed. This is the only natural lake in Texas and was a landmark of beauty before GS took its toll.
The GS issue has drastically affected the retirement and tourism business in both Texas and Louisiana. It’s hard to sell property or attract tourists and retirees to areas where lakes have been replaced by a blanket of matted plants. People taking normal weekend family trips and vacations are finding other places for spending their time and money.
Local businesses both on and off the lakes are the hardest hit and have announced the possibility of class action law suites against the state and federal agencies for negligence in properly addressing GS at an earlier date.
If there is a bright side to the GS issue it would have to be the fact that the attention level has been raised to an all time high which might be what is needed to protect many of our lakes that are not yet affected. Perhaps preventative measures can be put in place to insure that these lakes are protected. It’s sad that we didn’t provide the proper funding and manpower to fight this evasive plant way back in 2007 when many knowledgeable folks were expressing their concern. If this had been done perhaps we could have saved many of these lakes for our kids and grandkids to enjoy today.
Hopefully you read this article as it was intended. It was meant as a wake-up call to protect some of our most valuable resources.. Our lakes and rivers.
Perhaps if we get the proper attention to this GS issue a future headline will read …
“State Authorities Announce That GS Is No Longer Considered A Serious Threat To Texas/Louisiana Waters”. JB