Focus Shifts To Water Safety As Hydrilla Spreads

People who saw him go under say it was the hydrilla that drowned him.  Eddy Grimes was swimming through hydrilla this weekend at Lake Jacksonville and shouted that he was tangled up.

Now, those who live on Lake Tyler East say it's just a matter of time before the same tragedy happens there.

"One of the kids floaties got out and he went to try to retrieve it for them, and got caught up and yelled for help," said Kathy Boots, mother-in-law of the victim.

It's clear the hydrilla entangles nearly everything it contacts, including those looking for Eddy Grimes near the shore Sunday afternoon.

"It's just it's tough to go through because that stuff gets on you. It gets wrapped around your tank, and around your equipment," said Fire Marshal Brent Smith, who assisted in the recovery of Grimes.

He says it may never be completely clear whether hydrilla was solely responsible for the death, but at Lake Tyler East, Jack Peppard is concerned tragedy may strike on his lake, because hydrilla is so thick.

"If you fall in that stuff, it's extremely thick," he says of the strands that can be five or six feet long.   Just off his dock, and near the middle of the channel, it's like a forest.

"[It can stop] their boat and they fall into [the hydrilla] or ski into it because you can see it most of the time, but sometimes you can't," Peppard continues.

For years, hydrilla has spread unchecked.  At Lake Jacksonville, they are more than a half-decade into hydrilla control. Texas Parks and Wildlife says hydrilla will likely not go away on it's own and the City of Tyler has to start their own cleanup process.

Greg Morgan runs Tyler Water Utilities: "We want to encourage everyone to be cautious and to be safe when they are boating and swimming in Lake Tyler."

Morgan says they will meet with homeowners this week to talk about the future.  Meanwhile, the hydrilla has already covered more than a thousand acres.

"I have no regrets in what we've done so far, we're working with the citizens, we're working on the problem and we're working with Texas Parks and Wildlife to get a resolution," Morgan adds.

Peppard believes it is the city's responsibility.

"It may be a water supply lake, but goodness, it doesn't absolve us of protecting people if it's our property," he says.

To heal Lake Tyler East could cost millions over time. Peppard says that will be better than the cost of doing nothing.

"If we don't do something about it, something's going to happen."

Hydrilla has been linked to two other drownings in Texas since the year 2000, one on Lake Austin, another at a lake near Huntsville. The weed is not just a swimming hazard. It can bog down boat propellers in a moment, causing a sudden, unexpected decrease in speed...and it can seriously damage or destroy motors in jetskis.

Morgan Palmer, reporting. (