Army Corps seeks to avoid spread of invasive hydrilla plant

Apr 15, 2014

There is yet another invasive species starting to spread across area waterways and the Army Corps of Engineers has an herbicide ready as the plant blossoms in Tonawanda Creek.

While it's not clear how hydrilla came to this area, the most abundant problems are near boat launches in Tonawanda Creek and the Barge Canal. The plant is an acute nuisance in Florida where it was originally brought for use in aquariums and has since spread all over as a pest, although it's still sold in fish stores. 

Army Corps Project Manager Mike Greer discusses the effort to rid local waterways of the hydrilla plant.
Credit Mike Desmond/WBFO News

The Army Corps hopes to prevent the plant from spreading into the Great Lakes themselves with a frontal assault here, probably around the middle of July when hydrilla is starting to spread its roots. The focus will be between the bridges at Sweeney Street and Bear Ridge Road.

Project Manager Mike Greer says Western New York is the battlefront.

"It can be a problem in just about any kind of water body in this area. How it got into the Erie Canal, we're not really sure, but it can be transported a number of different ways, whether through the water or by human recreational activities. So, somehow, someway it ended up there and it's starting to take off," Greer said Monday.

Hydrilla has no natural enemies, although some invasive fish will eat the plant. Greer says attempts to simply run a rake though the plant and haul it away don't work because it breaks up instead.

The plant grows from the sediment on the creek bottom and expansion roots run through the sediment so the experts say that is why it has to be an herbicide sprayed from a boat onto the plant.

"It's a threat to the ecological and economic resources that we have right here within Niagara County and Erie County, but there's also a tremendous possibility that this could spread throughout the Great Lakes and other water bodies in our area and we don't want to see that kind of ecological and economic damage," Greer added.

Greer says the herbicide will be sprayed in low concentrations and there is no indicated threat to human beings from its use. The spraying will likely continue for several years, as the Army Corps fights to keep hydrilla from spreading and joining a lot of other invasive pests like the round goby and the zebra mussel.