airboat battles vegetation growth

 
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posted: 09 April 2012
by: Michele Marcotte

Pesticide spraying has been a key combatant to fighting giant salvinia on Lake Bistineau, Louisiana, since the fern began to clog waterways and damage habitat in 2006.

“Spraying has helped a lot,” property owner Pete Camp said. “But it costs a bunch.”

Brian Petree and Phillip Pritchett, spray technicians with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, spray over salvinia Thursday on Lake Bistineau near the boat launch

Brian Petree and Phillip Pritchett, spray technicians with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, spray over salvinia Thursday on Lake Bistineau near the boat launch

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) sprays the 17,000-acre lake every Monday through Thursday. Those efforts helped to reduce the infestation from 8,000 acres in 2007 to less than 50 acres today, LDWF biologist Evan Thames said. Over the years, reduced lake levels and weevils, or aquatic beetles that damage salvinia, helped fight the infestation as well.

But the varied efforts will never rid the lake completely of the free floating fern, Thames said.

“What we’re trying to do at this point in time is manage the lake and live with it,” he said. “We’re not eliminating (salvinia), but we’re keeping it at a level where everyone can still use the lake.”

Camp said property owners are “happy” with the progress LDWF has made and want to assist in minimizing its spread.

Resident Michael Morrison said at the infestation’s worst point, he had almost no lake access from his property.

“It was green all the way across,” he said of the area surrounding his dock. Now, when he looks out from it, he sees water.

Recently, the Bistineau Task Force, a coalition of representatives of the lake’s three surrounding parishes, as well as the Bodcau, Dorcheat and Saline Soil and Water Conservation districts, began to collect money to purchase an airboat and other items to be used exclusively on Lake Bistineau to fight giant salvinia. The boat was ordered this week and should arrive in eight weeks.

Thames said the boat will allow the LDWF to access shallow areas of the lake and mudflats during drawdowns.

The task force has an initial goal of $200,000, and Camp has collected approximately half of that amount.

“Nobody has said ‘no’ yet,” he said.

Some of the other items the money would go toward include a utility terrain vehicle, a two-seat vehicle with a bed to transport a chemical tank for spraying during a drawdown of the lake and GPS equipment. The task force also wants funds available for contract spraying and chemicals.

When the giant salvinia was “bad,” Camp also couldn’t use his camp on the lake, he said.

“If you can’t use it, it’s worth nothing and that’s really how we got involved,” he said. “We kept asking Wildlife and Fisheries ‘What can we do?’ We finally found a way through the task force where we can provide the things they need in order to do the things they do. And it’s worked well.”