Today, Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis and Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Secretary Robert Barham announced plans for an additional $2 million state allocation for LDWF's Aquatic Plant Control Program.
The funding recommendation, which will bring total funding for the program to $8.4 million for the fiscal year 2008-09, will be included in the Governor's Executive Budget, which Commissioner Davis will present to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget on Feb. 29. Before then, Commissioner Davis and other state officials will be highlighting budget priorities for which Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will seek the legislature's approval.
The additional funding will allow LDWF to treat additional acres of aquatic vegetation and develop research partnerships with state universities on alternative uses and treatment methods for nuisance plants.
"With these additional funds, Wildlife and Fisheries can more aggressively combat a major threat to our waterways, which will translate as a return on investment in healthier activity for a major sector of Louisiana's economy," Davis said.
LDWF has been working to control nuisance aquatic vegetation since 1946 when water hyacinths became prevalent in public water bodies. Aquatic plants imported from India and South America over the last two decades, and introduced to the United States primarily for use in aquariums and water gardens, have established a presence in Gulf coast states due to careless disposal of these plants and transferal between water bodies by unsuspecting fishermen and boaters.
The current threats to southern states are now hydrilla, common salvinia and giant salvinia. In areas where growth has progressed rapidly, boating, fishing and hunting activities have been affected and in some instances municipal and agricultural water supplies are now threatened. Additionally, property owners on affected waterways have seen diminished esthetic and property values.
"The department has traditionally treated approximately 40,000 acres of nuisance vegetation statewide annually, but our biologists estimate that surface coverage increased 48 percent in 2007 to 735,000 acres," said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham. "We must face this problem from the perspective that it will be a long, challenging battle."
In fiscal year 2007-08, LDWF's Inland Fisheries Division allocated $6.4 million for aquatic weed control statewide, and the infusion of $2 million additional dollars dedicated to this initiative will provide $8.4 million total for the program in the 2008-09 budget year.
One funding source for the department's aquatic weed program has been the boat trailer registration tax set in place by Act 77 of the 2002 Louisiana Legislature's regular session. That funding has been averaging $500,000 per year since fiscal year 2003-04. Act 183, an equally important piece of legislation passed during the 2007 regular session, extended this funding source with no sunset provision.
These funds, combined with federal and Conservation Fund dollars to purchase additional herbicides and manpower, are all aligned to fight a problem that is growing exponentially.
The salvinia weevil is seen as a very promising method of control for giant and common salvinia, and obtaining this natural weed predator in quantities sufficient to contain the threat is now a major component of the program.
Inland Fisheries is pursuing additional treatment options to chemical spraying, including containment booms, mechanical harvesters and increased public education efforts to heighten awareness and alert the public on simple steps that can be taken to prevent the spread of nuisance vegetation.
Controlling the spread of aquatic weeds by a combination of methods will be the focus of the Aquatic Plant Control Program in the years ahead.
For more information, contact Michael DiResto (Division of Administration) at 225-342-7158 or Bo Boehringer (LDWF, Press Secretary) at 225-765-2465.