Chesterfield continues to monitor invasive plant growth in reservoir

Chesterfield continues to monitor invasive plant growth in reservoir

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - The county continues to monitor an invasive plant species in the Swift Creek Reservoir but sees no reason for alarm after the plant population more than quadrupled over the last year.

Hydrilla first became an issue in Chesterfield's large reservoir in the summer of 2009, and the county launched an engineering study to find the best way to combat it. At that point, it covered half of the reservoir.

The invasive plant first appeared in the U.S. waters around 1960 in Florida from discarded aquarium plants.

George Hayes, Director of Utilities in Chesterfield, explained the Reservoir Hydrilla Management Group was formed to keep the growth from continuing.

If left unregulated, the non-native plant could stunt fish populations, impact wildlife depending on those fish, and could cause slower filter run times for the utility department.

Since 2009, the county has introduced carp to the reservoir to combat the issue. As the carp are also considered invasive, they are sterile to keep the population under control.

In 2010, 10,500 of those fish were brought into the water and proved to be successful at cutting back on the amount of Hydrilla.

In 2015, another one thousand fish were added in stages to mimic nature and allowing the fish to grow to all different sizes.

The latest batch of 3,000 fish were added in 2016 which is when the growth of Hydrilla only hit four percent of the reservoir.

As much as Hydrilla can be a pain, it is also necessary to keep aquatic plant life so the ecosystem remains balanced. Hayes considers a coverage area of 20 percent to be ideal.

In June of 2017, the Hydrilla took up about 15 percent of the reservoir. However, Hayes expects the current levels are closer to 20 percent. So, while you will notice more of the plant compared to last year, it is considered to be a healthy amount.

Hayes says the Hydrilla will continue to grow into October, eventually dying off in the colder weather. After that growing season, he plans on holding an educational meeting for the public. It will explore how homeowners can keep their banks clear and how the county continues to monitor the issue.

Part of that monitoring includes monthly growth studies, where experts will evaluate the growth by boat using an underwater camera.

The results of those studies, along with the history of the Hydrilla Management Group, can be found here.

There are plans to add carp again in 2018.

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