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Magnolia city officials and Columbia County officials need to keep a close eye on the giant salvinia situation in Lake Erling.

As reported last week in the Banner-News, biologists with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission have confirmed the presence of giant salvinia in a small portion of Lake Erling in Lafayette County, just across the Columbia County line.

Giant salvinia is a free-floating South American plant that stays at the water’s surface and can rapidly cover a large area and choke out all life in the water beneath if left unchecked.

The plant was reported in Lake Erling in December and Andy Yung, AGFC district fisheries supervisor, said in the article that giant salvinia has been an extremely difficult plant for lake managers in Louisiana and Texas to fight because of its extremely fast growth rate. The species can overtake an area, completely blocking light penetration and crowding out all other vegetation and even fish, essentially suffocating a fishery, he said.

So this poses a problem not only for Lake Erling, but other bodies of water and significantly Lake Columbia, which is Magnolia’s water supply. “With Lake Columbia not too far away, we’re very concerned that it could end up there,” Yung said. “Columbia is a water-supply reservoir, so if it gets there, our ability to use any sorts of herbicides is eliminated and we’ll really be fighting a losing battle.”

That is a situation that will require constant diligence because of how easy it is for the plant to get from one body of water to another. Yung says it’s particularly troubling to see the plant in Lake Erling, a popular fishing destination, where it has the potential to hitch a ride on anglers’ boats, trailers and equipment and be unknowingly transported to other nearby lakes such as Lake Columbia.

Yung says plans are in the works to begin lowering Lake Erling enough to expose all known areas of giant salvinia to winter weather. “We’ve helped them purchase the needed herbicides and surfactants to spray the infested areas,” he said. “Dropping the water level will make it much more effective and expose much more of the plants to the herbicide and any freezing weather we will have. Hopefully we can help them stop this infestation as soon as possible and prevent any further spread of the plant.”

Eric Brinkman, district fisheries supervisor in the AGFC’s Hope Office, said hunter and anglers can help significantly in preventing the spread of the invasive plant. “We hunt and fish too, and it’s really easy to see how a small bit of the plant can get stuck on a boat trailer, in a prop or even hang on to decoys, decoy weights and other equipment duck hunters use,” he said. “A lot of our hunters just aren’t aware of the issue, or they may think that because it’s winter that the plants are dead and won’t spread. Either way, we need all hunters and anglers to pay special attention to their equipment and remove all vegetation and mud from their gear before moving to a new location.”

We encourage readers who are fishing and hunting enthusiasts to help prevent the spread of this invasive threat to our bodies of water, including our water supply in Lake Columbia, and lakes in other parts of the state.

And let’s hope Arkansas Game and Fish has attacked the problem in time to minimize the threat.

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