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Lake Weed Removal Project Begins

May Eventually Include Five More City Lakes

 

Last updated 5/29/2019 at 8:18am

City lakes will soon have a cleaner, and perhaps healthier, appearance, thanks to an ambitious weed-harvesting effort that began on Thursday.

The work is being performed by a contractor working under an agreement approved by the City Commission in April. Clearing started on Lake Weader, also known as Lake Weaver, where the city operates a large fountain. The lake borders US 27 and Central Avenue in Lake Wales.

Shifts in wind direction have recently been moving a large mat of floating water hyacinths back and forth across the surface of the lake, often surrounding the fountain.

The initial phase of the work will cost $26,000, but extending the work to five other city lakes could expand the expenditure of over $1 million, according to city Parks Superintendent Vincent Crawford. "Taking control and maintaining the health, quality, and aesthetic value of our lakes is one of our top priorities," Crawford said.

The weeds being removed are primarily invasive species, including the hyacinths and torpedo grass. Common cattails are also targeted in the effort.

The floating water hyacinth, native to South America, was introduced into Florida in the 1880s and covered more than 120,000 acres of public lakes and navigable rivers by the early 1960s. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), water hyacinths are one of the most aggressive invasive weeds and their floating leaf clusters can actually double in size within two weeks by sending off short runner stems that develop new plants. Because of their aggressive growth rate, water hyacinths are illegal to possess in Florida without a special permit.

Crawford said the entire project will be done in phases over the next few years; other lakes targeted for future weed removal include Lake Wailes, Lake Alta, Twin Lakes, Cooper Lake, and North Lake Wailes, adjacent to Spook Hill. Crawford said removing the invasive plants and debris will improve aesthetics, flow, fish and wildlife and/or navigation.

Invasive weeds can damage fish populations by lowering dissolved oxygen concentrations and provide ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes, according to the FWC.

The FWC website says one acre of water hyacinth can yearly deposit as much as 500 tons of rotting plant material on the bottom of a waterway, and the floating canopy can shade out native submersed plant species and can uproot native emergent species that are important to wildlife.

"Vegetation that decomposes on lake bottoms contributes to poor water quality conditions of the lakes," said Assistant City Manager James Slayton. "Harvesting is the preferred method and helps to restore the overall lake health."

 

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