Time to Fight Off Aquatic Weeds

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The Gulf isn't the only local water with problems these days. Aquatic weeds have always been a threat to Panhandle lakes, but now Hydrilla, Water Hyacinth and American Lotus are moving into area rivers. The "army" is gearing up to battle the weeds.

If you don't think small aquatic plants are harmful, just ask Don Morgan. He's a biologist for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

"It does impact the recreation of the lake if we do not continue to apply and treat the submerged vegetation," he says.

Every year, Morgan's co-workers spray for Hydrilla, American Lotus and water Hyacinth, but every year the stubborn plants bloom again.

Don Morgan says pieces of Hydrilla can travel.

"If these fragments get broken off, then it will float down and establish to another part of the lake."

Morgan and others can't get rid of the plants entirely, but they also can't give up on containing them: a choked Lake Seminole could trickle down to the Apalachicola and the recreational and commercial industries that depend on it.

The Army Corp of Engineers doesn't just use chemicals. It also gets tons of grass carp to eat away at the problem. Grass carp will naturally eat Hydrilla and other submerged vegetation.

The fish are kept in one area by a low-voltage electric fence. The thick water plants are an annoyance to many boaters, but not everyone hates all the plants. Archie Smith likes the Hydrilla for fishing.

The Army Corps of Engineers will spend about $600,000 this year fighting aquatic weeds.