TVA crews looking to see if winter took a toll on an invasive plant that’s threatening Lake Guntersville

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. -- Crews with the Tennessee Valley Authority are monitoring Lake Guntersville to see if the freezing temperatures this winter took a toll on an invasive plant that's threatening the estimated $964.2 million dollar asset in northeast Alabama.

"These are the type of areas we look for the plant first," said TVA's lead aquatic plant biologist Brett Hartis, pointing to an area of Lake Guntersville from an airboat.

Courtesy: TVA

He's out on the lake looking for water hyacinth, an invasive plant both the state of Alabama and TVA want gone. "We saw hyacinth here and pretty much all over the lake by the end of the summer last year," he said.

That's a problem. "Boating and recreation would be majorly impacted by this. Fishing would be majorly impacted by this," Hartis explained.

It spreads like, well, a weed. A single plant can produce 3,000 individuals in just a couple of months. The good news? The cold weather took a toll on them. So Hartis and his crew are out earlier than usual in places they don't normally go looking to see if Mother Nature took a welcome toll. "It really should be starting to emerge this time of year," Hartis said.

Courtesy: TVA

So far this year crews haven't seen the plants at all on the lake, but it's still early yet.  "We went up to what we call the mother colony up above BB Comer Bridge. Last year there were several hundred tons of the plant in that area and we haven't seen a single plant yet there this year. That would have been the most likely area to see it start to come back this year," Hartis said, "We're not truly out of the woods yet but this year certainly helped."

So they'll keep an eye on the lake with fingers crossed the days of freezing temperatures made an impact.

State officials asked TVA to help control the hyacinth after it was found this past summer in Lake Guntersville. Lake Guntersville is one of the nation's best bass fisheries. A study from TVA and the University of Tennessee suggests recreation on the lake is valued at $964.2 million annually.

If you see the plant in the lake, call 1 (800) TVA-LAND

How you can help

TVA lists these ways to help control aquatic plants and keep invasive species out of TVA reservoirs:

  1. Keep it Clean—Remove all plant material from boats, trailers, bilges, live wells and any marine equipment. This will prevent aquatic species from being introduced into other TVA reservoirs.
  2. Native Water Gardening Only—Plant only native species around shorelines. While non-native species like ornamental lilies and water hyacinth are beautiful, they will quickly spread if introduced into the river.
  3. Drain and Dry—When visiting reservoirs with known invasive plants, make sure all equipment is dry and free from fragments. Even completely dry fragments have the potential to grow once submerged again. Consider only visiting non-affected reservoirs after you have cleaned, drained and dried your boat from other trips.
  4. No Dumping Please!—Please refrain from dumping unwanted aquarium or water garden plants into nearby streams and rivers. Dispose of any unwanted plants in the garbage.