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Oil City Residents claim sewage spilling into Caddo Lake

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Marshall News-Messenger, November 25, 2007.


By RYAN RENFROW, News Messenger

The efforts at Caddo Lake to help control the many invasive species
assaulting the water were a major point of discussion at the 2nd Annual
Texas Invasive Plants Conference in Austin last weekend.

"Caddo Lake is always a topic of interest to people in general because it's
the only naturally-formed lake of its size in Texas, but it's also the home
place of Lady Bird Johnson," said Jack Canson, project coordinator for the
Caddo Lake Giant Salvinia Community Response,

The conference at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center was attended by
close to 150 professional plant control people from the government and
academia including officials from Texas Parks and Wildlife, departments of
Interior and Agriculture and the Army Corps of Engineers, who all deal with
terrestrial and aquatic plants, said Canson.

In attendance as Caddo Lake representatives were Vanessa Adams, a biologist
for TPWD, Beverly Allen, a biologist for North East Texas Municipal Water
District, and Howard Elder and Earl Chilton of the Inland Fisheries Division
of TPWD.

"All made presentations specifically about the invasive aquatic plant
problem at Caddo Lake. That's giant salvinia, water hyacinth and hydrilla.
To a casual observer visiting (Caddo Lake) the obvious problem is the water
hyacinth. There are over 3,000 acres where you're supposed to be seeing
water and it looks like land," said Canson.

However, the water hyacinth is acting as camouflage to an even bigger

"The greatest threat is the giant salvinia which is hidden in that water
hyacinth, and unlike the water hyacinth it doesn't come and go, spiking one
year and going back the next. It (giant salvinia) just gets bigger and
bigger and takes over more and more," he added.

Since the water hyacinth is helping precipitate the growth of giant salvinia
a new tactic has been created to combat both species.

"For the first time ever since water hyacinth first appeared in Caddo Lake
there is going to be a real comprehensive program to fight water hyacinth
next year, because it's the only way you can get to giant salvinia. It's
really ironic because we should have been fighting water hyacinth a long
time ago," noted Canson.

Along with spurring the expansion of giant salvinia, the water hyacinth has
an impact in an area many people may not even realize is affected.

"We learned that water hyacinth is not only a nuisance ... displacing
habitats, it's a water consumer and not just the water that is bound up in
the plant. A plant is 97 percent water, so all that stuff you're looking at
(on top of the water) not only is that supposed to be open water, the water
in that plant is supposed to be in that water basin."

Also, as water hyacinth "breathes" through transpiration - it breathes water
into the atmosphere - causing it to consume three times more water than
would be lost to normal evaporation of open water. explained Canson.

"What is comes down to is in the last six months Caddo Lake lost as much as
15,000 acre-feet of water that it would not have lost if those
three-thousand acres had not had water hyacinth on them. The total is about
twenty-one thousand acre-feet with evaporation and water hyacinth together.
The lake only loses about six-thousand acre-feet of water to evaporation."

This combined total loss of water has made officials look at the water
hyacinth problem with new eyes.

"We've always looked at it in ecological terms, but it turns out there are
scientifically valid studies that indicate it's an economical problem as
well. Dr. (T.L.) Arsuffi (director of the Llano River Field Station) said
the most economic means of developing new water supplies in Texas right now
would be to clean up the aquatic plants. People are just now coming to
realize what the hard economic cost of the invasive aquatic plants are and
nobody anywhere believes that we are not going to need more water next year
and the year after," said Canson.

Over the past year, residents in and around Caddo Lake have lead a clean-up
effort against the invasive species attacking the lake that has gained state
and national attention.

"One of the reasons we get more attention is we have local people doing
stuff. Like building that fence out there, they don't wait as most of these
communities do for the government to come in. What local efforts do and the
reason they are so important is, if you don't have local effort then you
aren't moving the politicians forward and not getting the funds for the
problem and that's what it's all about," said Canson.

Getting those funds has been the hard part, but with the help of Harrison
County Judge Richard Anderson and U.S. Rep Louie Gohmert, Caddo Lake is
about to see a major change.

"People are going to see a different situation at Caddo Lake next spring,
with serious equipment and serious manpower. Congressman Gohmert and Richard
(Anderson) have been fantastic in pulling together the resources. This is
going to be a $700,000 plan. We are talking about adding two boats and four
full-time crew members to work 365 days a year on the Louisiana side and a
new air-boat and three full-time people on the Texas side. A really
incredible plan," said Canson.

The funds are only the beginning and according to Canson, Caddo Lake will
serve as an example for others who want to stand up and protect their lakes
for the hard fight ahead.

"We want to encourage locals to create their own way to capture water
hyacinth and plan to help underwrite the costs of implementing the design on
Caddo and other lakes facing the same problems. We hope to formalize all
this stuff into a project called Shoreline Watch and export it to other
communities that are near water bodies.

"No matter what we do next year, and we are going to do a lot, we are in for
several really, really tough years. There is no question about it."


Copyright 2007 Caddo Lake News