Freezing temperatures could help control a harmful invasive plant in Lake Guntersville

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. -- The cold weather brings its share of headaches with frozen pipes, ice, and higher electric bills but it also brought along some perks for boaters and anglers alike.

Courtesy: TVA

It all has to do with an invasive plant called water hyacinth, and both the State of Alabama and the Tennessee Valley Authority want it gone. "The last few years, the warm winters that we've had, made it able to establish in places like Guntersville Reservoir and Wheeler Reservoir," TVA lead aquatic plant biologist Brett Hartis said.

That's a problem. It can degrade water quality for fish, it causes issues for boating and it's spreading like a weed.  Hyacinth can quickly out-compete submersed species that fish and wildlife may thrive in. "A single plant can produce 3,000 individuals in just a couple of months," Hartis said. State officials asked TVA to help control the hyacinth after it was found this past summer in Scottsboro on 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.

But, Hartis said there's good news. "Whenever we get cold temperatures it can really, really impact that plant and keep it from coming back the following year."

Courtesy: TVA

The freezing temperatures that graced north Alabama took a toll. "A lot of dead plants which is a really good thing to be seeing," Hartis said.

Hartis said the plant most likely spread to the lake from river traffic and people dumping it from their own landscaping.

While the cold weather certainly took a toll on the plant, Hartis said it won't completely kill it off. "It'll greatly reduce the amount that we have in the following year," he said.

Hartis and his team will know how effective the cold has been this spring. TVA will monitor the spread of hyacinth and will likely use herbicides where growth is present in the summer.

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 submersed 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.