Reservoir officials consider lowering lake level

By NIKKI ROWELL,

A year later, the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District (PRVWSD) board is returning to several tactics to fight Giant Salvinia, which has been rediscovered in Pelahatchie Bay.

PRVWSD, along with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks and Mississippi State University, have been working to eradicate the plant since it was discovered in Pelahatchie Bay at Barnett Reservoir in October 2018.

The original emergency response plan included blocking Pelahatchie Bay off from the rest of the lake, thousands of dollars worth of spraying campaigns, burning, lowering the water level, introducing boat washing stations, public awareness campaigns and more.

Since no live Giant Salvinia had been detected since May, the PRVWSD board voted to return the lake level to normal to expose live plant matter if any was present.

Now the Giant Salvinia task force has recommended that the lake level be dropped four feet, to 293.3, to dry out all areas of Salvinia growth for up to three months.

They also recommend burning and spraying the exposed areas and then returning the lake level to 297.5 once burn and treatment is complete.

The board will vote Thursday on whether or not to the lake level and several other operational modifications for a 293.3 lake level, including target dates for beginning the drop, the target date for raising, notification of the public, closures of boat ramps and a stay of property maintenance regulations concerning the parking of boats on residential lease property for the duration of the temporary lowering of the lake.

“Raising the lake back to normal levels this week did exactly what it was designed to do, help us determine if any Salvinia remained in the bay by exposing it,” PRVWSD General Manager John Sigman said in a release from the Barnett Reservoir when Salvinia was rediscovered last month.

However, on the first day of assessment, Giant Salvinia was found in one area. Steps have been taken in the meantime, including aerial spraying and another 3,000 feet of boom added to increase containment.

On October 17, the board voted to allow areas of the Bay to reopen to boating. However, due to the discovery of live Giant Salvinia, the decision was reversed last month as well.

According to PRVWSD officials, “all areas north of the main Pelahatchie Bay boat channel from the A-Pole to Spring Branch will remain closed, and all areas north of a buoy line from the A-Pole to the first marker pole of the boat channel along Northshore Causeway are closed. These are the same boundaries established in March when the Bay reopened to boating.”

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