As part of a cooperative effort, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is stepping up its role in managing hydrilla and milfoil on Lake Guntersville, site of the 2014 Bassmaster Classic. That means the agency will pay for more spraying as the new Alabama Board for Aquatic Plant Management works toward achieving self-funding.
“We are actively working to develop a long-term plan in which local communities will contribute to the cost of this program that is so critical to our economy and the preservation of our lake,” said State Rep. Wes Long from Guntersville.
Since 2010, TVA has required lakefront property owners to pay for weed treatment, as it confined its efforts to public areas such as ramps and beaches. Under the new agreement, it will pay fully for treatment for three years, with funding dropping a 1/3 annually after that, until the board takes over financing in 2019.
“One of my first actions as a United States Congressman was to ask the TVA leadership to resume its abandoned weed effort,” said Rep. Mo Brooks of Huntsville. “I thank TVA President and CEO Bill Johnson and TVA Board of Directors Chairman Joe Ritch for being responsive to weed control requests by my office, mayors, commissioners, and elected officials throughout the Tennessee Valley.”
Not surprisingly, some anglers are concerned that TVA will obliterate valuable fish habitat in its efforts to manage the invasive plants. But many seem cautiously optimistic.
“If they limit the spraying to boat trails and docks and marinas and beaches, I don’t think any of us would object,” said guide Mike Carter. “But if they kill a lot of the weeds in the prime fishing areas, that would be a concern.”
The director of the Alabama Bass Trail added that managing the plants is essential if Guntersville is to continue as a world-class bass fishery.
“Flight surveys have shown that up to 40 percent of the lake is covered with weeds in late summer,” said Kay Donaldson, who also serves on the new board. “That’s too much of a good thing.
“When you get that much weed cover, it blocks anglers out of thousands of acres of water that could otherwise be great fishing. The best situation is controlled spraying . . . which will give us a balanced lake that produces lots of fish and still allows homeowners, boaters, and swimmers to enjoy open areas year around.”
Local officials in Guntersville and Scottsboro plan to reinstate the local Aquatic Stakeholder Group to work with TVA and the new board.