Invasive water weed returns to Lake Lanier

Published 10:00 pm Monday, June 5, 2017

Poses growing concern for lake residents

LAKE LANIER – A weed is spreading throughout the waters of Lake Lanier like kudzu and residents say their concerns are growing. The main plant is a form of Parrotfeather, which is a non-native species, native of the Amazon River in South America, but it has naturalized worldwide, particularly in warmer climates.

Parrotfeather is found in freshwater lakes, ponds, streams and canals. It is said to grow best when rooted in shallow water, which is where it is currently growing the most in Lake Lanier, particularly in the Boy Scout Camp area, but is found in all three basins of the lake even in deep waters.

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There are currently two kinds of plants or weeds growing in the lake with Lake Lanier Civic Association President Larsen Dunn saying the second is called Egaria.

Parrotfeather shoots begin to grow in the spring and they grow rapidly as water temperatures increase.

The Town of Tryon owns the lake and the lakebed, which is in South Carolina. In 2012, the town and the Lake Lanier Civic Association (LLCA) partnered to place 600 carp in the lake to attack the issue.

In 2012, Tryon Town Council agreed to fund half of the carp that year and said they would pay for one quarter of the cost of carp the next year, but nothing following that. The town agreed by a split vote in 2012 to fund up to $3,000 for the 600 carp to be placed in the lake.

At the time, former commissioner Doug Arbogast, who voted against the town paying for the carp, said if the citizens of Tryon had use of the lake he may feel differently about contributing to the solution.

Tryon Mayor Alan Peoples said in 2012 that several years prior the town spent $10,000 to stock carp in the lake and no one else contributed anything.

Since the 2012 purchase of carp, the LLCA paid for 250 carp to be placed in the lake in 2015, according to LLCA members.

The Bulletin reached out to a local biology professor to ask why the weed has grown so fast since last year.

Mike Winterrowd, Ph.D., a biology professor at Spartanburg Community College who lives just outside Landrum, said this year’s mild winter certainly impacted the rate of its growth this year.

Winterrowd said shallow, warm water is more stagnant and will make more algae and weeds grow, where colder water is harder to grow for some species.

Winterrowd said species like what Lake Lanier is experiencing will get established and if nothing is done it can take over.

Parrotfeather at the shore by the Lake Lanier Tea House. (photo by Claire Sachse)

Winterrowd also said it normally takes 7-15 grass carp per surface acre to control weeds in lakes and ponds.

Another control method is herbicides, according to the NC Department of Enviromental Quality.

A Facebook post late last week regarding the weeds in the lake generated many comments about the issue. Several residents responded that the problem is lake wide in all three basins of the lake, with some saying it is causing people to not swim in the water, particularly where the problems are heavy around docks. Some lake residents offered solutions for pulling the weeds from around docks so people can swim as well as educating people to make sure if they pull the weeds to ensure they are properly disposed of because the Parrotfeather in particular will re-root if it floats in the water.

Mark Williams said in his three years at the lake he has never seen as much growing as what he’s seen this year and it seems to be everywhere.

Dunn said the problem is widespread as well.

“It is lake wide,” Dunn said, “and indeed a conversation and problem that is in progress. We need to work on a resolution for the lake and the town.”

Tryon owns the lakebed as its main drinking water source but the lake is located just across the state line in Greenville County, S.C. The town draws water from the lake to supply its customers, which includes customers both inside and outside town limits, including supplying water to Lake Lanier residents. Tryon officials have struggled for years over enforcement of the lake zoning because of costs of enforcing an area that is located in another state and therefore does not contribute to the town’s tax base.

Tryon Town Manager Zach Ollis said late last week the town has not received any complaints and was unaware of the issue. Ollis said he intended to send an employee to the lake to assess the growth sometime this week.