Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Upper Neches River Municipal Water Authority and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are moving quickly to control small infestations of giant salvinia on Lake Palestine and Sam Rayburn Reservoir.
Giant salvinia was found for the first time January 28 in Sam Rayburn in the back of Coleman Creek. On Lake Palestine, a citizen reported giant salvinia and water hyacinth in the vicinity of the Kickapoo Creek boat ramp on February 5. The Upper Neches River Municipal Water Authority has temporarily closed the Lake Palestine Kickapoo Creek boat ramp, which is on F.M. 315 south of Chandler. The closure is expected to last at least a month.
Four other public boat ramps and a number of private ones remain open on Lake Palestine. Locations of those ramps may be found at http://tinymce.moxiecode.cp/mce_temp_url ; click on "Fishing and Boating," then on "Lakes" and use the lake list to find Lake Palestine public access points.
TPWD Inland Fisheries Division personnel immediately investigated both areas and worked with the controlling authorities to install floating booms that will prevent wind from spreading the plants to other parts of the lakes. "We will clean the areas up by hand if possible," said Howard Elder of Jasper, TPWD's aquatic habitat biologist. The areas involved are about 0.1 acre on Lake Palestine and 0.2 acre on Sam Rayburn. Elder has prepared proposals for emergency chemical treatment of the areas if necessary. Those proposals have to be approved by the controlling authorities, and treatment could not begin for at least two weeks.
"We will continue to search more areas on both lakes," said Rick Ott, a TPWD fisheries biologist in Tyler. "We ask that people look for the plant and call us if they see it. Boaters should remove all plant material from their boats and trailers before leaving the ramp every time they go to the lake. Place any plants in trash cans or dumpsters so they cannot be washed back into the lake." It is illegal to possess or transport giant salvinia. Possession or transport of giant salvinia or other prohibited aquatic vegetation in Texas is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 per plant.
Giant salvinia is a highly invasive exotic floating fern that can spread very quickly. Dense mats of floating vegetation block sunlight and can result in the death of all other life beneath it.