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3 Investigates: The money to fight salvinia - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

3 Investigates: The money to fight salvinia

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SHREVEPORT, La. -

Salvinia—a problem that several lakes in Louisiana have and Wildlife and Fisheries tries to fight, especially Lake Bistineau. The department has found methods to maintain the aquatic plant but so far nothing to get rid of it.

State Representative Patrick Williams thinks an invention by a local man can solve that problem.

"It's been proven to work. LSU has done a study on this; that using the water mower is environmentally friendly. It actually eradicates the salvinia," he said.

Williams said the water mower takes in the salvinia, chops it up and lets the bits sink to the bottom, thus killing it.

But a study by Wildlife and Fisheries in April proved some of it regenerated.

Without seeing the report, Williams wanted the department to continue to evaluate the mower and changed the budget to reflect that at the end of the session.

"What I allocated was $200,000. Two hundred thousand dollars out of a $7 million budget to be used for the water lawn mower."

But Governor Bobby Jindal vetoed the line item after the legislature adjourned. His office tells Williams he cut the money because Secretary of Wildlife and Fisheries Robert Barham asked him to.

State representative Henry Burns whose district until lately included Bistineau, told KTBS he also got calls of concern about the allocation.

"Why are we not using a mechanism that could get rid of it?" Williams asks. "Why are we not doing this? There has to be an underlying factor and I would like to know what it is."

The Wildlife and Fisheries report of an April test of the mower explains why—it didn't cover as much ground for the same period as chemical spraying.

Wildlife and Fisheries's Director of Inland Fisheries Mike Wood talked to us over the phone.

"It goes back to the fact that we've got to be able to use our money wisely, and so, we're not able to spend money on things that aren't as effective as tools we already have," Wood said.

Woods said a demonstration was set up with the mower and a two-man spray crew. The agents spraying were able to control 25 acres in a day for only $73. The mower could only manage two acres in five hours.

"If that were an effective tool, we would absolutely use it. But again, I have an obligation to the folks that actually fund this project to use their money wisely. Until such time as it, the water mower or any other measure, can be an effective measure, cost effective, I can't justify using their money on it."

The money wood uses is the tax payers', and Williams agrees with him.

"I just need the public to be more attuned with what's going on, and let them decide what they want to do," Williams said. "If they want to continue to spray, fine. If they want to let the weevils do it, fine. If they don't want to use their waterways and not use this machine, that's fine. But I would like to see that Wildlife and Fisheries is doing everything it can to eradicate this particular issue."

Wood said the inventor of the mower has an open invitation to bring any modifications to the mower to them and they would reconsider using it, if it proves to be more cost effective than what they already have. 

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