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Hydrilla gains hold in Buggs Island Lake / May 04, 2011
Steve Hoyle, an aquatic weed specialist with N.C. State University who spoke at the Clarksville Lake Issues Committee symposium Thursday, confirmed that the invasive weed hydrilla has established itself in Kerr Reservoir/Buggs Island Lake.

“We don’t know what’s in Kerr. That’s a big question mark,” he said.

He said a rough survey of the North Carolina portion of the lake last fall provided the first documentation.

“Everywhere we threw in a rake we found it,” he said. “We think there’s a lot of hydrilla in the Virginia side of the lake, but we don’t have any survey data to prove it.”

He said there isn’t enough money to do a full survey on the North Carolina side. The Corps owns the reservoir and doesn’t have any money either, he added.

“The bass fishermen are going to excited about hydrilla in Kerr; property owners not so much,” he said

He encouraged the area to involve all stakeholders out the outset in deciding what to do about the aggressive, non-native plant, something the Lake Gaston community did not do at first.

Since six counties in two states border on the reservoir, there are a lot of stakeholders, he said.

“Whatever you do or don’t do to manage it, stakeholder involvement is going to be important,” he said.

The weed spreads rapidly as boats transport it from one public access to another, he said.

Putting up signs at access areas could be a useful tool in preventing the spread of hydrilla, Hoyle said.

With intensive management the weed can be controlled in 10 years, but skipping a year puts control back to Square One, he said.

The main challenge is to control the way hydrilla reproduces. Its buds live in the water over winter and it starts growing vigorously in early summer.

The key to management is to deal with it when it starts growing. Controls include mechanical, chemical and biological approaches.

Mechanical controls are not feasible in Kerr Reservoir/Buggs Island Lake because it is full of stumps and rocks, Hoyle said.

Chemical controls are available, but getting permits to use them is complicated. Some new herbicides are becoming available, but may not have a long-lasting effect on the plants.

Dealing with the species biologically by introducing grass carp is a biological way to control the population that has been used in Lake Gaston in conjunction with other approaches.

Although grass carp prefer to dine on hydrilla, they will eat any plant, Hoyle said. As a result they can damage native plants that are beneficial to the fisheries.

Summer draw-downs of lake water could help “but I don’t think anybody wants the lake drawn down during Fourth of July week,” he commented.

In answer to questions from the audience, he said grass carp can survive in water with both high and low levels of dissolved oxygen. Their growth rate is not affected by freezing and thawing cycles.

Hoyle said hydrilla have been linked to a deadly disease in bald eagles that causes lesions in the brain. Eagles contract the disease by eating infected waterfowl.

“The top predator on the food chain ends up with the worst of the deal,” he said.

He said one lake in North Carolina recently had 20 nesting populations, but the following year had zero.

Outbreaks have been identified in South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, and Texas, Hoyle said.

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