Friday, August 24, 2012
More invasive weeds reported this summer
Hot weather, low water linked to increase in aquatic weeds.
While many of us have enjoyed our summer splashing, swimming and boating around the lake, weed monitors with the Smith Mountain Lake Association have been hard at work fielding calls and searching for invasive weeds growing in the lake.
From June 1 to Sept. 30, SMLA operates a weed hotline, 719-WEED, for residents to report suspicous plants growing in their area of the lake.
So far this year, Brent Reus, co-chair of SMLA's weed monitoring program, said the hotline has received 111 calls, compared with 90 during the same time last year.
"It's because it's been hot and the lake has been down," said Reus. "It's a lot easier to see growing [up out of the water]."
When a call is received via the hotline, a monitor is then dispatched to the location to identify the weed. If it's deemed invasive, the monitor will get samples and, with the help of the SMLA's volunteer snorkelers and underwater divers, try to determine how widespread the growth is.
Using Google Earth mapping, the areas where the weeds were found are entered into a database, and the SMLA then contacts the Tri-County Lake Administrative Commission, which arranges to have the plants treated by a licensed contractor.
Non-native invasive weeds that have been found in the lake include Brazilian elodea, brittle naiad, curly-leaf pondweed and hydrilla.
"Hydrilla has been categorized as one of the world's worst weeds, and it is certainly among the most notorious of submerged aquatic plant species. Infestations of hydrilla are extremely severe and can completely choke entire lakes and public water supplies," according to TLAC's website.
This year alone, TLAC already has scheduled for about 100 acres to be treated, according to Pam Dinkle, TLAC's lake management and project coordinator. Last year, TLAC spent $90,000 on treatment. Dinkle predicted that amount likely will increase this year.
"We're definitely going to spend more this year," she said. "We used to treat less than 80 acres, and last year, we doubled that."
While treating invasive weeds such as hydrilla has been effective, there's no way to completely eradicate it.
"It's similar to kudzu, and its ability to reproduce is unbelievable," said Dinkle. "It will never go away, and we probably will be able to control it only for a period of time."
Even after an area is treated, SMLA's volunteer divers and snorkelers will return to that spot to ensure the treatment was effective.
"Our organizations [TLAC and SMLA] work extremely well together," said Dinkle. "The divers are a great help in determining how big an area is."
Even though divers were to wrap up their search for weeds this week, the weed hotline will remain open through the end of September.
Information is updated regularly on the aquatic vegetation page of SMLA's website, which includes a Google Earth map of the lake. It pinpoints the locations where hydrilla and curly-leaf pondweed have been found based on the calls to the weed hotline. In addition, TLAC posts regular notices to its website regarding treatment of the weeds.
For more information about the weed hotline or to learn how to become a volunteer monitor, visit the SMLA website at www.smlassociation.org. To read more about weed treatment, visit the Tri-County Lake Administrative Commission's website, www.sml.us.com.