Hydrilla Choking Two Popular Lakes - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

8/2/05-Smith County

Hydrilla Choking Two Popular Lakes

Lake Tyler and Lake Tyler East are magnets for recreation, and those who want to retire on a peaceful, scenic lake. But a monster is growing in those lakes. In some cases, it's lurking just under the surface. It can cause real damage, and residents and a state expert says something has to be done.

"It's taken over all this area. And this is unusable for boating," says Lake Tyler East resident Byron Davis. "You can't fish in it, you can't do anything in it. This part of the lake is unusable."

It's unusable for the Hydrilla. It looks like a plant you'd have in pot, perhaps. But it grows like the worst weed, and spreads across the lake like a summer wildfire. It gets caught in boat engines and jet ski intakes -- bogging down an afternoon of fun on this beautiful lake.

"You'd be like a car in mud, just stuck," he says, describing boats that are mired in it

Boats are also a cause for Hydrilla's spread, too.

"It gets chopped up and people load their boats," says expert Billy Higganbotham of the Texas A&M Research facility in Overton. "It gets hung up on the blades and the prop, and they go to the next lake and this chunk comes loose. And [the Hydrilla infestation] starts all over again."

He says the Hydrilla is here to stay. Management is the key.

"Underwater lawn mowers can harvest it, but it's temporary," he says. "Herbicides always become a touchy issue when you're talking about lakes that are used for water supplies."

Those techniques can be used with a combination of special fish -- the Triploid Grass Carp. It's a fish native to Southeast Asia.

"They have preferences about what they eat and Hydrilla happens to be one of their preferences," Higganbotham says.

The City of Tyler says they're looking at all options, including making homeowners clear Hydrilla along their shores. Then the question: what about what's well out in the lake?

Byron says he would have to take out his map...

"You'd just have to go over this with red and tell them this is totally unusable," he says.

Higganbotham adds: "To cross your fingers and hope it's just going to go away on its own is probably going to be a fruitless endeavor."

Hydrilla was first discovered in the United States in Florida some forty years ago. It was apparently brought in to be an exotic aquarium plant and got loose. Since it is native only in parts of Europe and Asia, it is illegal to possess or knowingly transport Hydrilla anywhere in Texas.

Morgan Palmer, reporting. morganpalmer@kltv.com


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