Local News

Halifax Residents May Have To Pay To Stop Hydrilla Growth

Posted May 10, 2004

— For several years,

hydrilla

, has infested thousands of acres of shallow water on Lake Gaston. A new approach to fighting the weed is for all property owners on the lake to share in the costs.

Last summer, Boyd Strain raked in mounds of hydrilla floating around his boat dock on Lake Gaston. These days, Strain is helping lead the push to convince the five counties surrounding Lake Gaston to levy a local tax that would fund the war on the weed.

Halifax County commissioners recently got an eyeful of heavily infested areas around the Interstate 85 bridge in Mecklenburg County, Va.

"We have a serious weed control problem up there," Halifax County Commissioner Rives Manning said.

The weed, nicknamed "Godzilla," does more than choke boat propellers and tangle swimmers legs. Aquatic life also suffers.

"The oxygen level goes way down, affecting the insects and little fish that would, normally in natural vegetation, make it," Strain said.

A service tax to fight the water weeds is not new. Florida taxes gasoline to raise money to fight aquatic weeds.

"It has got to be funded from some source, and it would make sense to have it funded by the people most affected by it," Manning said.

Property owners would pay up. It would be up to each county to determine how much property owners would pay up. The money would pay for chemicals and grass-eating carp that eat hydrilla.

"All taxes are hard to sell," said Bill Pierce, chairman of the Halifax County commissioners. "With the proper education, perhaps we can do that."

With anti-tax sentiment strong, critics argue a service tax in the five counties surrounding the lake may not fly. Chemical treatments could cost as much as $1.7 million this summer.

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