Intrusive plant taking over reservoir nearly eradicated

By NIKKI ROWELL,

Roughly 90 percent of the giant Salvinia found in the Ross Barnett Reservoir has been eradicated after approximately $150,000 has been spent on efforts to remove it.

In a couple of weeks, officials will be able to make a call on when to reopen Pelahatchie Bay. According to Bobby Cleveland, Pearl River Valley Water Supply District (PRVWSD) spokesman, the earliest it will open is April 1.

While  the PRVWSD  board and Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks have greatly reduced the amount of giant Salvinia, Cleveland said, “it is not time to take your foot off the throttle.”

“We’re going to continue aggressively attacking through spraying every day that we can,” Cleveland said.

There are some areas where the giant Salvinia could be completely dead or dormant, but Cleveland said there is no way to tell until mid-March.

“That’s pretty good, but not good enough. Until you’re down to zero, there’s the chance that the little bit remaining here could spread in a few weeks.”

More than a month ago, officials lowered the lake level to allow 90 to 95 percent of the plant to be exposed, hoping the cold temperatures would kill the plant.

However, Cleveland said the weather was less than ideal. They wanted a harsh winter and low water level, but they got the opposite.

“Instead of getting what we needed, we got exactly what we didn’t want. But we still eliminated 90 percent of it,” Cleveland said.

They have now moved on to other efforts.

“We have been burning it off every day that we can, but the humidity and wind have prevented them from doing too much,” Cleveland said. “The main goal of the burn is not to burn off the Salvinia, but to burn off the cover that could be hiding where the Salvinia could be.”

Burning will allow officials to assess how much of the plant is still there and have more success with the herbicide.

 

As for reopening Pelahatchie Bay, discussions are ongoing to determine the possible opening or partial opening of the bay. Cleveland is certain the bay will not be open before April 1.

The only watercrafts with clearance to be in Pelahatchie Bay at this time must be vessels owned by a governmental agency or PRVWSD approved contractors.

Officials must first determine how much of the material they believe is dead is actually dead.

“We also have to make sure it didn’t break containment and get somewhere else,” Cleveland said. “We can’t say with 100 percent certainty that it hasn’t spread anywhere.”

By mid-March Cleveland expects them to have a better idea of where they stand with eradication.

The first boat cleaning station will be installed at Pelahatchie Shore Park on March 25.

“We don’t want anyone coming in or out until we have that in place,” Cleveland said.

The other boat cleaning station could be located at the boat ramp off Highway 43.

 Cleveland is encouraging boaters and fishermen to inspect their boats and trailers closely to prevent the spread of giant Salvinia.

He said vegetation can sometimes get caught between the trailer and the boat. He said since there are many places on a trailer where vegetation can get stuck, boaters should remove any plants they see and wash with soap and warm water.

That is the most effective way to remove all vegetation, as one small piece of a plant could cause it to spread.

Giant Salvinia could live up to a week outside of the water and even longer than that on a moist surface, such as in a boat’s bilge or on the carpeted bunk board of a trailer, according to PRVWSD.

It is most commonly spread by boaters, so the cleaning stations could help prevent the problem in the future.

 

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