Lakecaster Online



LAKE LIVINGSTON, Texas -- Using a mechanical vegetation-shredding device called "The Terminator," resource managers on Lake Livingston are hoping to control an exotic aquatic plant that is creating problems in this 90,000-acre East Texas reservoir.

Water hyacinth, which is not native to North America, is a rapidly growing floating plant. First introduced into the United States in the 1800's for attractive purple flower, water hyacinth quickly spread throughout the Southeast, clogging waterways in many areas. In the past, it has been called the "worlds worst weed," an appellation which may soon be reserved for giant salvinia, another exotic aquatic weed.

The extensive spread this spring of water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is damaging the aquatic resources and hindering recreational activities on Lake Livingston, according to Phil Durocher, Texas Parks and Wildlife inland fisheries director. Among the problems caused by water hyacinth are shading submerged native plants, crowding native floating plants, blocking access to boat ramps and piers, and in some areas severely limiting fishing and other recreation, Durocher said.

Water hyacinth typically has been controlled with herbicides, but TPW -- working with State Rep. Dan Ellis, the Trinity River Authority and local residents -- plans to eliminate major areas of infestations in Lake Livingston with a mechanical shredding device.

"We believe that this integrated approach to water hyacinth management will allow TPW and its partners to maximize control of this exotic species," Durocher said. "Right now we're talking primarily about an access problem, but if we don't get a handle on it, it can quickly become a resource problem."

The mechanical harvesting on Lake Livingston will be funded through U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Federal Aid with matching funds of $2,500 provided by the Sensible Management of Aquatic Resources Team, a Houston-based non-profit organization of anglers, environmentalists and industry leaders.

"We will be funding projects like this one to evaluate harvesters on different types of vegetation in different areas to try and determine which equipment is most effective," said David Stewart, president of SMART. "This is a tool. Is it a cure-all for every scenario? No, there isn't one, but it is a positive step and we're glad to see Parks and Wildlife move in this direction."

The device, known as "The Terminator" and operated by Masters Dredging Co. of Kansas, can shred 30 to 40 acres of water hyacinth a day under the right conditions, Durocher said. Of particular concern is the Thomas Lake area where boat access and access to water by the local volunteer fire department has been inhibited. The machine is expected to remain on Lake Livingston until access problems are solved.

Because the shredding device requires at least 2 feet of water to operate, some infested areas may be inaccessible, Durocher said. In those areas, the Trinity River Authority is expected to follow up the shredding operation with herbicide under guidance from TPW.

"The water hyacinth was a concern last year, but this year it has become a real access problem around many of these subdivisions," said Mark Webb, TPW district biologist who manages Lake Livingston. "Water hyacinth can cause low dissolved oxygen during the summer, and it blocks out native plants, so it is a detriment to the fishery. During our spring electro-fishing surveys, we wanted to compare what we caught in areas of water hyacinth stands as opposed to other areas. We found no fish in the water hyacinth areas at all."

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