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Lake Gaston neighbors could pay more for weed removal

Northampton County is cutting its contribution to hydrilla control. Other counties could follow suit, putting more of the burden on homeowners.

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — Homeowners on Lake Gaston can expect to pay more this summer to remove the dreaded tendrils that choke boat propellers, tangle swimmers and hinder wildlife.

Hydrilla, an invasive, water-dwelling weed, has been a nuisance in the lake since the early 1980s.

Over the years, the five counties bordering the lake -- Halifax, Northampton and Warren in North Carolina and Brunswik and Mecklenburg in Virginia -- agreed to split the cost  of hydrilla supression evenly. Last year, each county supplied $116,000 towards that effort. The Lake Gaston Weed Control Council spent that money, combined with funds from other sources, for a total of $1.2 in hydrilla control.

But with the economy slumping, Manager Wayne Jenkins said Northampton County was planning to cut its contribution to $100,000. If the other four counties follow suit as the agreement dictates, the total funding from the counties will drop from $580,000 to $500,000, a decrease of just about 14 percent.

"Potentially, the other four counties could say, 'If Northampton County is only going to contribute $100,000, then we're only going to contribute $100,000,'" Tom Winebrenner, president of the Lake Gaston Weed Control Council said.

Homeowners like Theron Mouzon are forced to take matters into their own hands.

"I love to play in the water and I can't play like I want to with a bunch of weeds around me," Mouzon said.

Mouzon hired a service to treat part of the lake near his house. He paid $100 to kill the weeds just so that he can use his boat.

Still, he feels like he pays twice -- his taxes fund the weed control council and his paycheck backs up where county funds don't cover.

Skip Wiegersma, owner of Skip's Aquatic Solutions sees the problem and the opportunity.

"They can't walk out on their beach area to swim. Yhey can't get their boats out of their boat docks because the hydrilla tops out like a carpet," Weigersma described.

For him, it's good for business. Skip's Aquatic Solutions is contracted by the weed control council to spray Fluridone to kill the hydrilla. The herbicide is safe for fish and other aquaitc life, but works on the unwanted weeds.

Spraying has already begun, although the hydrilla is not very widespread on Lake Gaston yet. It is expected to reach peak growth in July and August.

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