Slight traces of salvinia still found in Pelahatchie BayBy NIKKI ROWELL,
Summer is nearly here, and boaters are eager to get back out on the water at the Ross Barnett Reservoir.
However area residents need to be patient a bit longer as officials work to determine when the Pelahatchie Bay will reopen, according to Bobby Cleveland, Pearl River Valley Water Supply District (PRVWSD) spokesman.
While most of the giant salvinia has been eradicated, Pelahatchie Bay still has traces of the aggressive aquatic plant, which has the capability of overtaking the lake if left unchecked.
More than $150,000 has been spent on efforts to remove the giant salvinia, including booms to prevent the plant from transferring to other areas of the lake, spraying, flame throwers and more.
“Our biggest fear was that it would go under the bridge and spread into the main lake,” Cleveland said.
The late spring and early summer heat could help finish killing the plant since it is exposed and out of the water.
“If we can bake it, we can kill it. We’re really close,” he said.
Only two to three percent of the plant remains, Cleveland said. “The minute that we will feel safe is when we go out and we don’t see any green pieces,” Cleveland said.
“To eliminate recreation was a very difficult step for us to take,” Cleveland said.
He hopes they will be able to reopen Pelahatchie Bay within the next month. They may open on a limited basis or may need another month before opening.
Cleveland said they won’t know for sure until they go over all the facts when they meet and then the board will have to vote on what action to take.
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.”
The first boat cleaning station will be installed at Pelahatchie Shore Park soon.
Officials are also working on a campaign encouraging all boaters to “clean, drain and dry” their boats upon leaving the water each time.
The other boat cleaning station could be located at the boat ramp off Highway 43.
Cleveland also encourages boaters and fishermen to inspect their boats and trailers closely to prevent the spread of giant salvinia.
Vegetation can sometimes get caught between the trailer and the boat and in other hard to see areas. 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.