Acting on the advice of aquatic vegetation experts, the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District declared an emergency related to the outbreak of the invasive plant giant salvinia and closed the Pelahatchie Bay area of Barnett Reservoir to all public boating.
The boating ban is just one of the steps PRVWSD is taking as part of its emergency response to giant salvinia, an invasive, highly aggressive, non-native plant that is fast growing and can take command of a habitat in a short period of time. It has been plaguing fresh waters in the Southeast, including Louisiana and east Texas for years.
“We’ve been advised that we have an opportunity to eliminate giant salvinia in Barnett Reservoir, but only if we take actions now to contain the plant to the Pelahatchie Bay area,” Barnett Reservoir general manager John Sigman said. “To do that, we have developed an action plan that we know will not be popular with all our users and residents, but we feel is necessary to control and possibly eradicate giant salvinia.”
The action plan includes:
* A temporary closure of all public and private boat ramps in Pelahatchie Bay.
* Ceasing all boat traffic between the main lake and Pelahatchie Bay under the Northshore Parkway Bridge.
* Continued extensive herbicide treatment.
* Lowering the lake level during the winter months to expose the plant to its one environmental weakness, cold weather.
The ramps began closing Thursday and all were closed by Friday. Shoreline homeowners with boats in docks or boathouses on Pelahatchie Bay have until Nov. 5 to remove their boats, if desired.
Boating was banned to prevent the spread of the plant by boats. Giant salvinia has been shown to be viable for a week out of the water, even longer in a field of moisture like inside a boat’s bilge or on the carpeted bunk board on a boat or trailer.
On Friday, passage between the main lake and Pelahatchie Bay under the bridge of Northshore Parkway was blocked with floating temporary obstructions, designed to block the plant from riding wind or current from the Bay to the main lake, as well as on boats or their attachments.
The boating ban includes all types of watercraft, including fishing boats, pleasure craft, canoes, kayaks, personal watercraft and sailboats. Only vessels owned by governmental agencies and PRVWSD-approved contractors and residents with waterfront leases will be allowed on Pelahatchie Bay during the closure.
A critical part of the plan involves drawing down the lake during the winter months to aid in the eradication of giant salvinia. The plant has little tolerance for cold temperature, especially when it’s been weakened by herbicide applications. The lake is scheduled to be lowered a foot to 296.5 feet above sea level by Dec. 1 and to 295.5 by Dec. 15.
“A cold winter, combined with low water levels, intensive herbicide application, and containment gives us an opportunity to eradicate giant salvinia this winter,” Sigman said.
It is anticipated that this closure will remain in effect for six months.