Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologists have partnered with multiple agencies in attempts to slow the spread of giant salvinia in Lake Columbia and nearby waterways.
The highly invasive, aquatic fern was detected in the lake, located near Magnolia, in December of 2019. AGFC biologists from the Camden office have deployed containment booms at all of the lake’s boat ramps, with the exception of the Beech Creek ramp.
Under ideal conditions, giant salvinia can double in numbers and size in less than a week. Biologists hope the containment booms, with herbicide application work being done by Columbia County Rural Development Authority, can reduce the plants’ impact.
Containment booms were first placed at the western boat ramp at South Shore Landing on Lake Columbia in August. The AGFC followed up in September with containment booms placed at the eastern boat ramp on South Shore Landing, as well as at the boat access at North Shore Landing.
Containment booms will not be placed at the Beech Creek Access because of the shallow water around the boat ramp.
“The structures are designed to exclude giant salvinia from boat launch areas while allowing boats to enter and exit, which will limit the potential for it to spread to additional lakes via boat trailers exiting the lake,” said Andy Yung, district fisheries supervisor in Camden. “Louisiana has used these floating booms in their lakes. These are the first booms that we’ve put out in Arkansas to prevent the spread of giant salvinia.”
The booms are held up by steel posts and braces, with heavy, large concrete anchors in between on each anchor point, Yung said. A solid curtain hangs down with a length of chain run through the bottom for weight.
The lake is owned by the Columbia County Rural Development Authority, while the AGFC manages the fishery. The county RDA began periodic herbicide applications in early April 2020.
In late September, the RDA found a salvinia hot spot and sprayed 500 gallons of a herbicide mix, Yung said.
Yung reminded anglers and boaters, as well as waterfowlers during the hunting season, to remember to “always clean, drain, and dry your boat and trailer to help do your part in preventing the spread of aquatic invaders like giant salvinia.”
Giant salvinia appeared on Lake Erling, which is about 16 miles southwest of Lake Columbia, in late 2018. Erling, which is owned by American Gamebird Research Education and Development Foundation and has a cooperative management plan with the AGFC, has been drawn down 8 feet to help in curtailing the salvinia along the shoreline.