One year later, plant problem in Swift Creek clearing up

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - A year after Chesterfield County spent thousands of dollars shipping in carp from Arkansas, Utilities Director Roy Covington took NBC12 out on a boat to show how the plant problem in Swift Creek Reservoir is improving.

A year ago hydrilla, a vine-like plant, covered about half of the 1,600 acre reservoir which provides about 25 percent of the county's water.  Boats were getting tangled in the plant and fish were blocked out of certain areas because the plant rooted itself at the bottom of Swift Creek and grew up to the water's surface.

A year later it should be smooth sailing for boaters on Swift Creek this summer.  Chesterfield County is reporting its investment in 10,500 carp is paying off.

The steady hum of the county boat was keeping the reservoir-rescuers at bay.  When we went out with Roy Covington Friday morning we could not see carp from our boat.  But they're in the water.

"They're apparently very happy in Swift Creek Reservoir," said Covington as he sat the boat that stopped in the middle of the water source.  "They're eating very well."

When the carp were shot into Swift Creek April 2010 they measured 12 inches in length and weighed about a pound. Hydrilla did the fish some good.  In a photo taken in August 2010 that sent to NBC12 from Chesterfield, you can see the fish have grown.  Today, fishermen said they're even bigger, weighing in at about 15 pounds.

Although hydrilla poses no health risk to the county's water supply,  it can ruin propellers. which is a big problem for people who live along the reservoir.   It can also spread easily. All it takes is a small piece hydrilla from one water source to be submerged into another.

"We don't know exactly how it got here, but it's highly likely that it was imported through a boat or trailer," explained Covington.

Chesterfield is tackling this problem with everything it's got.   The sterile carp will be hard at work for about two decades.  A harvester will come in and pull up the plant.   So far, the county's spent more than $100,000 in the process that will never be over.

The county also invested in signs that are posted along the reservoir, alerting people to the biological remedy.  The carp are not to be caught.  Boaters are also advised to wash down boats and trailers before entering and after exiting Swift Creek Reservoir.

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