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Plant Species Taking Over Texas Lakes; Impacting Boater Safety

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department is trying to let boaters know just a tiny little piece of an invasive plant that has already made in-roads in East Texas can hitch a ride on a boat trailer, having a huge impact on an entire, uninfested lake.

Many people have heard about plant species taking over a lake — they just haven’t heard about it in Texas.

“I’ve heard about it before where they’ll be uploaded, like in Florida and stuff like that, where they’ll have things that stick on the boat and then they take the boat to another lake and then you know maybe the drag another species to lake where it wasn’t supposed to be,” said Gibran Esparza as he waited to board a boat at Joe Pool Lake.

It’s a frustrating fact for Texas Parks & Wildlife: many Texas boaters haven’t heard their own lakes are under attack by invasive plant life.

“Not in Texas,” Esparza said. “No.”

“It’s something that doesn’t get a lot of publicity, a lot of news coverage,” said Capt. Tony Norton with Parks & Wildlife.

This is the danger most people haven’t heard about; it’s a plant called Giant Salivinia. It’s already taking over Caddo Lake and others east of Dallas. The plant can double in size in just four days and completely carpet huge swaths of lake in no time, leaving waters hazardous for boating and deadly for indigenous wildlife.

“Indigenous species, it will remove the oxygen from the water to the point where fish can’t survive in it if it blankets enough of it,” Norton said. “Very serious.”

The state could poison the plants, but that doesn’t seem a safe option.

“Unfortunately, when you start using herbicides you got to start worrying about water quality, about the fish and have about the animals that are in that water,” Norton explained. “So you gotta look at the big picture when you start putting chemicals on something.”

The state is working on deploying a weeble that feasts solely on the plant in South America.

For now, it’s up to boaters to check their trailers and boat bottoms to make sure there isn’t the slightest bit of Salivinia when they leave the lake. Because even a little piece could bloom into a big, lake-choking problem.

“That’s kind of scary!” Esparza said after learning about the plant. “Got to make sure we wash the boat off before we take it anywhere.”

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