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Homeowners Fight Dreaded Aquatic Weed

Posted July 26, 2007

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— Hydrilla, a dreaded aquatic weed, is no stranger to homeowners on Lake Gaston.

But it’s not a problem just there. The weed is a cause for concern in more than 20 states – from Florida to Connecticut and west to California and Washington.

Five counties that border Lake Gaston split the $1.2 million cost of treating the weed, but many homeowners are digging deeper into their wallets. Controlling the weed’s growth can be a very taxing issue.

Hydrilla can grow in almost any freshwater environment: springs, lakes, marshes or rivers. The weed’s stems can grow up to 25 feet in length, posing a danger to boats, swimmers and wildlife.

About 3,000 acres of Lake Gaston contain Hydrilla. The plant arrived in the early 80s. Many believe a piece of it was attached to someone's boat, which was then put into the lake.

Tom Winebrenner lives on Lake Gaston. He and other property owners know what it's like to get mired in the muck of Hydrilla.

“We’ve lived in this house since 1995, and we’ve battled it for 12 years. It’s an every-year battle,” he said.

Every year, lake managers fight that battle and try to control the plant's growth. But the aquatic weed keeps coming back.

“It’s just an absolute nuisance,” said Wally Sayko, a Lake Gaston resident. “When you’re trying to get a WaveRunner or a boat out, it can impede your propeller, burn up engines. If you’re swimming, small children have to be careful you don’t become entangled in it.”

One of the main problems with Hydrilla is how quickly it can spread. Whenever the weed is shaken in the water, the seeds get stirred up and it can spread.

But how do you stop it? More than $1 million of public money has been spent on herbicide pellets. But many property owners go a step further and spend their own money to stop Hydrilla from reaching their house.

“Last year, I did not treat my own, and I had a great difficulty getting my boats in and out,” Winebrenner said.

While those who fight the weed said they’re making progress every year, they admit they are still far from ridding Lake Gaston of it.


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  • Tarheeljunior Jul 28, 2007

    I did a mini-ecosystem study on hydrilla when I took AP Environmental Science back in high school. The entire point was to introduce foreign substances to the thriving hydrilla to see if it would kill it. We tried drain cleaner and other abrasive chemicals to no avail. The substance that finally killed it was suprising...sugar. We put sugar in there and it was dead and decaying by the next morning. The only problem was that it smelled so bad that we had to immediately seal the container and take it out back to the dumpster. I wouldn't recommend trying that again.

  • The DA Jul 27, 2007

    I used to go to Lake Gaston every year when I was a kid. The problem didn't exist. We had a sandy beach to play on. Eventually the weed came and they couldn't keep the weed out of the swimming area, so they gave up. 20 years later, folks aren't able to enjoy what used to be b/c man doesn't care about tomorrow if it will keep them from having fun today. I guess Easley may raise our taxes for this, too.

  • Nancy Jul 27, 2007

    Just like kudzu, invasive and extremely damaging if left to it's own.

  • JohnnyMalaria Jul 27, 2007

    Riddickfield - Glad someone pointed this out. (I'd say it was hypocrisy rather than irony.)

    Sorry - no sympathy here. I've got about 5 acres of land. Every year, without fail, I have this plant that just won't stop growing over the entire property. It's especially bad after rain and I have had to invest in some very expensive machinery to deal with it. Every week I have to take 2 to 3 hours to keep the plant from overwhelming the entire property.

    But it's not just on my property. I see it everywhere and people dealing with it in the same way. State-wide, it must cost hundreds of millions of dollars to deal with.

    What is this pesky plant?


  • Commentor5 Jul 27, 2007

    People complain about everything, especially folks who move here and whine that its not like where I come from. Hey, if I don't maintain my yard, the grass might come into my house. Same principle with people moving to NC from other states: don't like it, move back - the water was here first!

  • .Milky Jul 27, 2007

    I thought they said Cronic Weed, now my clothes smell like lake water.

  • FlSunshine Jul 27, 2007

    When I moved to Florida 30 years ago the story I was told was a woman went out of the Country on vacation. She brought the Hydrilla back...I forget from what Country. She put it in her fountain in her yard and it grew. There was a heavy rain and it got washed into the river...and grew...and grew. Florida fights the stuff all the time. We have lots of things, plants and animals, that have been introduced here that are awful.

  • Riddickfield Jul 27, 2007

    Ironic isn't it. People talking about how this plant is changing the eco-system, but didn't WE change it when we dammed up the river to create the lake in the first place? Oh what a tangled web we weave...

  • Adelinthe Jul 27, 2007

    Is this something that's indigenous or was it introduced?

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • Rocknhorse Jul 27, 2007

    We have a place at Lake Gaston and by the end of summer, this stuff is a nuisance. But we use rakes to clear the area near the boat dock. Once you get out to deeper water, it's a non-issue. We paddle through it with the little john boat for fishing. And let me tell you, the BIG fish love to hang out near it, so fishing is better later in the summer.

    I do hope they find a way to control it. But we'll just do our heavy playing in the early summer and our heavy fishing later!