“It's here and it's everywhere — it's bad news,” he said on Monday of the fast growing South American native plant, which can double in size in about a week.
The plant forms a thick mat on the surface of a lake or a reservoir, which chokes off oxygen to fish and other plant life, Texas Parks and Wildlife officials said. The growth of the giant salvinia began on the Louisiana side of Caddo lake in 2006, and Texas Parks staff have been engaged in battle ever since.
In October, giant salvinia was found at boat ramps on Lake O' The Pines, Lake Wright Patman, near Atlanta, Lake Gilmer and Lake Murval, near Carthage, officials said.
“A few days ago, we did an angler survey on Lake Gilmer and spent several days picking it up where we could,” said Timothy Bister, district fisheries biologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife. He is based in Marshall. “We also went to Lake Murval and found some (giant salvinia) there and spent several days picking it up. That boater had just been to Toledo Bend,” he said.
Bister said none of the salvinia has ever been found in Lake Tyler, but some of the plant was found around boat ramps in Lake Palestine a few years ago. Although a recent check has found Lake Palestine to be in the clear, Bister said.
Carter said the plant is affecting many marinas and businesses along Caddo Lake because it burns up outboard motors, which are cooled by water. Most of the lake tours his marina conducted in the past have used boats with the outboard motors. And fixing the motors is an expensive proposition. “It takes thousands of dollars to fix it, and most people don't want to go out and chance it,” Carter said.
He doesn't expect the giant salvinia to affect his business as much because his business uses Go Devil boats, which have an air-cooled lawn mower engine. But Carter said he does worry about the plant destroying Caddo Lake if it is not controlled. “We may be a mud puddle between droughts,” he said.
“We got a brief reprieve during the drought of 2011 and then Caddo Lake caught some water again (last year),” Bonds said. The plant grows best in the summer when it is not exposed to wind, and it likes swampy areas and backwater, he said.
Bonds said one little piece of the giant salvinia can start a new plant, and no male and female interaction is needed. The salvinia grows in a thick mat on top of the water, with roots dangling underneath the water. It is not anchored to the bottom of the lake or reservoir, he said.
“It provides no habitat for fish and wildlife, and blocks sunlight in the water,” Bonds said. “Nothing can grow, fish don't want to be underneath it, and it blocks boating and recreational access,” he said.
The salvinia is transported by boats that aren't clean underneath, and fragments can come off of the bottom of the boat, axle or bunks, onto the boat trailer, he said.
The best way to combat the plant is through prevention, Bonds said. If the Parks and Wildlife staff can catch it soon enough, a floating boom, similar to the one used in oil spills, can be used around the boat ramp to corral the salvinia to keep the wind from blowing it onto the lake.
He said several fisheries crews have stumbled upon the salvinia by accident and that several boat trailers coming from the Lake O' The Pines have been intercepted with salvinia on them.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been inspecting boat trailers parked in lots by area lakes. If their boat trailer shows giant salvinia, that's a violation of the law, and a Class C misdemeanor,” Bonds said. The transport of aquatic plants can bring a punishment of a $500 fine, he said.
Bister said boaters should thoroughly rinse their boats once they come out the water, and if there is a great deal of the salvinia near a particular boat ramp, use another boat ramp to get into the water.
The growth of the plant had been more controlled because of the 2011 drought and because of the last two winters being milder, Bister said.