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Bistineau Task Force discusses best options for fighting giant salvinia

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WEBSTER PARISH, La. -

The war on giant salvinia continues in our area, and the Lake Bistineau Task Force met today in Minden to hear from experts on what the next step in that fight should be.

At this point, with Lake Bistineau about a month into its drawdown, officials are struggling just to manage it and keep up with its incredibly fast growth.

The aquatic plant has consumed at least 4,000 acres of the lake and it's only spreading.

"If you can dry out more areas, it means that you can kill more salvinia during a drawdown. It also means you can cut more areas," explained Evan Thames, with the LA Dept. of Wildlife & Fisheries, at today's meeting.

Wildlife and Fisheries has tried mowing it down, spraying it with herbicides and still it continues to grow.

"I'm not a biologist. I'm an old science teacher but I want to know what we can do to fix this problem," pleads District 10 State Rep. Gene Reynolds.

A tiny insect may be the answer.

The weevil quite effectively feeds on giant salvinia, however the insect is susceptible to the climate.

A weevil growing program would also have to be established to generate enough of the insects to even make a dent in the plant, which is capable of doubling in weight in a matter of two or three days.

"It's difficult for the weevils to establish themselves and multiply in sufficient numbers without considerable assistance from human beings," explained Jack Cansun, formerly with the Caddo Lake Institute.

The weevil has shown promising results in the fight against salvinia at both Caddo and Cross Lakes, and members of the Bistineau Task Force, as well as area residents, are desperate to find something that works.

"Now with all the research and development, it seems to be that's the way all the experts are going. It's a natural way to get rid of the salvinia," says Task Force member Pete Camp.

Researchers at the LSU AgCenter are looking into how well weevils can withstand winter weather, as well as what habitats best suit the insect in order to grow them in mass quantities.

Bistineau's dense cypress groves also make it difficult to navigate and treat the plant, so removing timber is another option, though there has been some controversy over the legality of that removal.

And the problem of giant salvinia isn't just in the Ark-La-Tex.

Over 150 lakes across the U.S. from California to Virgina, are battling the plant known as the 'floating menace.'

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