Congressional hearing discusses giant salvinia problems
There is no silver bullet for controlling giant salvinia, said giant salvinia experts testifying during a recent Congressional hearing in Shreveport. They also stressed that research collaboration in combination with various management methods and education is essential to devising and implementing ways to combat the plant.
Testimony by federal agencies, Texas and Louisiana state agencies, universities and non-governmental organizations on efforts to control and eradicate giant salvinia were heard during a field hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs on June 27 at Louisiana State University–Shreveport. Subcommittee Chairman Rep. John Fleming from Louisiana and Rep. Louie Gohmert from Texas attended the hearing.
Giant salvinia is a free-floating aquatic fern, native to South America, and is an aggressive invader that can double in size in four to 10 days under favorable growing conditions. The plant is found in several lakes in Texas and Louisiana. The Texas Water Resources Institute’s (TWRI) Center for Invasive Species Eradication manages the Caddo Lake Giant Salvinia Eradication project, which is advancing management options for the invasive plant.
Lucas Gregory, TWRI’s project manager for the project; Patrick Ireland, Texas AgriLife Extension Service assistant for the project; and Dr. Michael Masser, professor and Extension fisheries specialist; and Kathy Wythe, TWRI communications manager, attended the hearing.
“We are losing ground on something we don’t have an answer for,” said Robert Barham, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Louisiana has seen its state-wide infestation of giant salvinia grow from approximately 13,000 acres to more than 25,000 acres in two years.
Dr. Michael J. Grodowitz, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers research entomologist, said the biological control of giant salvinia with salvinia weevils is “highly promising” but said managing the plant through biological control is a long-term process. Grodowitz said besides looking at ways to control the plant, research needs to be done on what underlying factors in a particular waterbody allow the plants to grow and out-compete native plant species.
Richard Lowerre, Caddo Lake Institute president, highlighted the work being done by TWRI and Texas AgriLife Research, Texas AgriLife Extension, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on rearing the salvinia weevils for release into the lake and educating the public.
Other witnesses were Louisiana State Rep. Henry Burns; Ross Melinchuck, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department deputy director; Michael Massimi, Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program invasive species coordinator; Ken Ward, Caddo Parish Department of Public Works project manager; Dr. Randy Westbrooks, U.S. Geological Survey National Wetlands Research Center invasive species prevention specialist; Dr. Dearl Sanders, Louisiana State University Idlewild Research Station resident coordinator; Jeffrey Trandahl, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation executive director; and Dr. Damon Waitt, University of Texas Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center senior director.