After more than a year and a half of fighting an invasive aquatic plant, Barnett Reservoir officials are optimistic that efforts to eradicate giant salvinia have been successful.
Giant Salvinia is an aggressive non-native aquatic plant that was found in the Pelahatchie Bay area. It is a small, free-floating aquatic fern native to southeastern Brazil and northeastern Argentina.
Bobby Cleveland, a consultant to the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District (PRVWSD), told the board last week that the first full shoreline survey of the growing season had been completed and no live giant salvinia had been found.
“They found zero evidence of giant salvinia in the bay,” Cleveland said.
However, Cleveland said this time of year marks the beginning of the plant’s growing season as temperatures reach 90 degrees.
During this time, Cleveland said, “We will find the answer of whether we have eradicated it or it will show its face. It’s very encouraging that they did a complete search and didn’t find any.”
Efforts to eradicate the plant in the reservoir have included aerial spraying of herbicides, lowering the lake level to expose it to harsh temperatures and burning, blocking off infested areas and closing Pelahatchie Bay off from the main lake until a boom system was installed.
These efforts have come with a hefty price tag. However, if left unchecked, giant salvinia could have taken over the lake.
According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, giant salvinia threatens life within a body of water as one small piece of vegetation can grow into what is known as a “mat.”
Once giant salvinia has developed into mats, it can kill all plants, aquatic insects and fish living below the mats by reducing the amount of oxygen in the water and preventing movement. The mats can also be a breeding ground for mosquitoes and block access to boat docks and boat ramps, along with interfering with navigation.
While there are no signs of life in the areas previously affected by the plant, PRVWSD is remaining on offense, as they recently approved an additional aerial spraying contract with Aerial Forestry Services in Ridgeland for 2020.
“It’s time for us to address the vegetation at the lake,” PRVWSD Executive Director John Sigman said. “Once again, our partners at Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks and our consultant Bobby Cleveland and many fisherman groups have suggested that we enter into another aerial spraying contract. We were very successful last year.”
The contract is for the spraying of 600 acres of the Barnett Reservoir, with 131 acres being parts of Pelahatchie Bay and geared toward continuing to treat the area for giant salvinia.
Sigman said the board received two proposals, and they decided to go with Aerial Forestry Services at a cost of $65.77 per acre.
“The aerial spraying we discussed is another piece of the puzzle, a preventative measure,” Cleveland said. “If we did miss some, we hit it with this. We are one step closer to claiming a victory here.”