Lake Guntersville Gets Needed Grants to Fight Invasive Grass

The Lake Guntersville, Alabama Stakeholders Group is an organization that has been working with fisherman, property owners, TVA, and local city and county governments to address the management of invasive aquatic weeds since the 1980’s.

In the early years, the problems primarily came from hydrilla and milfoil.  The fishermen loved those weeds because they gave cover for the feeder fish to spawn in and the edge of one of  those fields of weeds generally provided a good place to find large-mouthed bass.

Unfortunately, the weeds made it hard to navigate the waters and many times they blocked access to boat docks, boating ramps, and access lanes and would even clog the coolant intake on motors in the open waters.  Homeowners hated them – especially those that weren’t fishermen but enjoyed skiing, sailing, rowing, and other water activities.

Hydrilla and milfoil are well-controlled with aquatic herbicides and a management plan could be executed that left some areas alone for fishermen yet cleaned other areas to provide access to boat docks and for other uses of the lake.

 

Then came eel grass.  There is a native eel grass but it doesn’t spread as aggressively as what we are fighting now.  We’ve learned through DNA testing that this eel grass is a hybrid that may have it’s beginnings in the fish tank industry. There is much speculation as to how this variety was introduced into our reservoir but regardless as to how it got started, it is very aggressively spreading now and it is not as well-controlled with the aquatic herbicides that are currently being used. Large mats of floating eel grass can break loose and cause significant issues wherever they end up.  When eel grass decays it produces a slimy sludge and a rotting odor.  It is a significant threat to just about every aspect that the lake is used for and is a major threat to economic development.

One of the reasons why it’s worse in Guntersville than any other lake in the TVA system could be because we have the shallowest lake in the TVA system which provides excellent growing conditions.  Plus, we can’t fluctuate our water levels much because of the depth needs for commercial barge traffic and this limits some of the weed control measures..

WET was formed as a 501(c)3 in September of 2011 but due to lack of funds we weren’t capable to do much other than to educate various entities regarding our issues with invasive weeds in Lake Guntersville.  In 2019, WET joined forces with the Lake Guntersville Stakeholders Group to provide a funding mechanism for additional efforts.   We currently manage a website and Facebook page called MyLakeGuntersville.

WET received a pair of federal grants through Fish & Wildlife that totaled $1.2M and last year started working in partnership with TVA to join in the fight against the invasive weeds with TVA covering the weed control of public areas such as boat ramps and WET covering the privately owned areas.

In addition to herbicides, TVA has contracted harvesters to remove the weeds (primarily eel grass) from the water but the scope of the problem has been likened to harvesting a square mile of wheat with something the size of a lawn mower.

TVA is also partnering with Mississippi State to test other herbicides and other control methods that might be more effective than those currently used.

The main growing season for the weeds is mid-May to mid-October.  During the peak growth months, the cost of the current herbicide control methods is about $90k per week.  That does not include the additional expenses TVA incurs for the harvesting program.  At that rate, our current grants will soon run out and additional funds will be needed to carry on the work.

Visit MyLakeGuntersville.com for more information or to donate.