Arkansas Game and Fish Commission fisheries biologists have confirmed that giant salvinia, a harmful invasive plant, has been found in Lake Columbia in Columbia County.
Giant salvinia is a free-floating South American plant, similar in appearance to duckweed but much larger. It grows on the water’s surface and can rapidly cover a large area, starving the water underneath of oxygen and light and choking out all other plants and animals if left unchecked.
The plant has been found throughout the lake.
It was first found in Arkansas in November 2017 in Smith Park Lake in Miller County near Sulphur River Wildlife Management Area. In December 2018, the plant was discovered in Lake Erling in Lafayette County. A December 2019 survey indicates the plant now is present around more than 60 percent of Erling’s shoreline.
“When I first came to the district about five months ago, I went to Erling and had to look for some of the giant salvinia to find it,” AGFC fisheries management biologist Jacob Martin said. “Now, you have to look hard to find a cove or shallow water anywhere in the lake that doesn’t have salvinia.”
Erling is owned by the American Gamebird Research Education and Development Foundation and Lake Columbia is owned by Columbia County. The AGFC has agreements with both to provide technical assistance on fisheries management and has reached out to both groups to give advice on control of the problem.
“A drawdown during winter to kill off the invasive plant and herbicides are the best methods to control it once it has become established, but that is sometimes easier said than done,” said Jason Olive, AGFC Assistant Chief of Fisheries. “Lake Erling does not have the infrastructure to draw the level down quickly, and Columbia’s designation as a water-supply reservoir complicates any issues using herbicides. Drawdowns also are seen negatively by many anglers, even though they are extremely beneficial in controlling vegetation as well as producing excellent fishing conditions in years following the low water.”
Olive said boaters should be aware of the dangers of spreading giant salvinia or any other invasive species when they travel to a new body of water. Olive noted it is a violation of Arkansas law to be in possession of invasive plant species, including giant salvinia.
Boaters are advised to remember the mantra, “Clean, Drain and Dry” any time they visit lakes known to have giant salvinia or other invasive aquatic species.
Clean — Remove all visible plant matter from equipment before leaving the body of water.
Drain — Let all water from the boat and motor drain completely before transporting.
Dry — Let everything dry for at least five days before entering a different body of water. If you are unable to dry, washing with high-pressure, hot, soapy water also can help.
Anyone spotting giant salvinia in Lake Columbia or in other Arkansas lakes is asked to call the Camden regional office at 870-836-4612 to report the location.