Thursday, October 23, 2014

Out of control weed turning California Delta into a disaster

Out of control hyacinth turning California Delta into a 
October 22, 2014 9:01pm

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•  Who is supposed to get rid of it?
•  “The hyacinth situation in parts of the California Delta has become”

Water hyacinth plants invade Village West Marina
(CVBT photos)

Unwelcome plant life

Houseboat with "landscaping"

"And one there sang who soft and smooth as snow
Bloomed like a tinted hyacinth at a show...."
 (From "A Triad" by English poet Christina Rossetti, who probably wasn't writing about the Delta's hyacinths)

The photos that are on the right side of the screen as you read this show a bit of the problem: Water hyacinth plants are growing out of control. The problem is throughout the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

They are pushed out of the way by the ocean-going freighters that serve the Port of Stockton, but pleasure boats might as well be sailing on a field of weeds.
“The hyacinth situation in parts of the California Delta has become a disaster. The navigable part of the Calaveras River is completely filled in with the pest as are Buckley Cove, Downtown Stockton harbor, Whiskey Slough, much of the San Joaquin River and many other areas,” says Bill Wells, executive director of the California Delta Chambers & Visitor's Bureau in a letter to John Laird, secretary of the, California Natural Resources Agency.
“It’s the worst I’ve ever seen and I’ve worked here more than 20 years,” said a worker at Stockton’s Village West Marina, one of the state’s largest.
Mr. Wells says the plant is security and safety hazard, is killing fish and wildlife and is serving as a breeding ground for disease-transmitting mosquitoes.
“I urge you at this time to take decisive action to control the infestation,” Mr. Wells implores Mr. Laird.
He says time is running out since the permitted pesticide spraying period ends on Nov. 1.
“You need to free up every available resource to spray as much as possible between now and the first. I recommend hiring outside contractors to help with the task. Once the spraying period is over you need to move forward with an aggressive campaign of mechanical removal of the plant,” Mr. Wells says.
He says the weeds are so thick that boats cannot operate, causing operations at many marinas to come to a standstill as well as preventing people from visiting waterside restaurants and businesses.
“Law enforcement boats cannot travel through the hyacinth and this opens up a possible national security threat as terrorists could attack ships traveling up our rivers,” Mr. Wells adds.
He also says that many private businesses in the Delta have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money to try to control the hyacinth.
He says the true responsibility for controlling the pest lies with the Natural Resources Agency.
“It has been disappointing to me and many of my associates trying to report the problem over the last few years that the Department (now Division) of Boating and Waterways will never answer the phone or return a message. It makes it appear that they do not want to address or solve the problem,” Mr. Wells says in the letter. Mr. Laird has responsibility over the department.


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