Are All North Louisiana Lakes Doomed to Die by Giant Salvinia?
At this writing on January 18, 2021, outside of the "Great Blizzard of 2021", we still haven't seen much of Old Man Winter here in North Louisiana. That means that the Giant Salvinia that has infected most of our local lakes is still there. Breathing, festering and reproducing.
A hard winter with multiple days of below freezing temperatures is the only sure-fire way that we've seen that will truly kill what an LSU Ag Center weed specialist called "the poster child of invasive species."
I just re-read an article that the LSU Ag Center posted on August 23, 2013 where they wrote,
Giant salvinia in southwest Louisiana should be under control in a few years.
I almost laughed out loud. Not only is Giant Salvinia still a major issue in southwest Louisiana, it's still a problem in most all of Louisiana. In fact, outside of a winter like we had in late 1983 when Red River froze solid, I'm not sure there is any hope of saving some of our lakes like Wallace Lake or even Black Lake in Campti.
It's at the root of the annual controversial drawdowns on Lake Bistineau, it's the topic of countless conversations on Caddo Lake and Black Bayou Hosston and Texas is now requiring all boat owners to wash down their boats before and after usage on lots of Texas lakes.
It affects everyone who uses the infected waters; fishermen, skiers, bird watchers, just anyone who needs to freely move about the water.
What is Giant Salvinia? Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries says it's a free floating fern native to Southeastern Brazil that spreads by fragmentation and can double in bio-mass in 3 to 5 days. And rest assured, in the warm months, it can take over an entire body of water in 60 days or less.
So how did we get here? According to the LSU Ag Center, salvinia came to Louisiana in 1999, imported by commercial water garden companies. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says the first place it appeared was in Toledo Bend Reservoir. I was just there yesterday and can testify that it's still there today, over 20 years after its first appearance. Though not as bad of a problem as we have in other lakes, it's still choking several back water areas. But the LSU Ag Center said in 2013, "it should be under control in a few years"? Little did they know.
So what's the solution? That's a question that potentially has a million different answers, and apparently none of them are correct, or we'd already have the problem solved. To see just how convoluted the situation is, you don't have to look any further than the La. Wildlife and Fisheries website where they actually have a different plan for each body of water affected. Can you imagine if that was the case with the field of medicine? That every illness had to individually tailored? We would all be doomed.
However, Wildlife and Fisheries is trying to be proactive and attempt several modes of combat, including the drawing down of lakes when possible, the expenditure of millions for chemical treatment, the genetic creation of weevils designed to eat the salvinia and manage to survive the cold winter months, but alas, nothing has been 100% effective at this point.
As I mentioned above, the only thing they've found so far that meets all the necessary safety criteria and is 100% effective is Mother Nature. And we haven't had a freeze that lasted long enough to possibly eliminate salvina completely since 1983.
As an avid Louisiana outdoorsman, I sure wish that our government would put some type of bounty on the idea that would eliminate this stuff forever instead of things like spending at least $518,000 to study how cocaine affects the sexual behavior of Japanese quails.
But I fear, that unless Old Man Winter intervenes, some of our lakes are doomed.