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Native plants help improve Lake Waco water quality

July 7, 2009

Eric Haskell is a natural resources specialist and park ranger for the Army Corps of Engineers. He oversaw planting of native plants in Lake Waco, and the signs of labor are already sprouting along the banks of the lake, spreading a few feet in. These native plants were reintroduced to help fight off non-native and invasive plant species. This exchange will improve Lake Waco for recreation, and for its inhabitants.

More specifically, hydrilla is the non-native species the native species will combat. Hydrilla, which was introduced by fishermen, can start out innocently before eventually taking over, chasing out fish and causing problems for humans.

In Lake Waco, the hydrilla had become thick enough to cause the Army Corps of Engineers concern. Elsewhere, hydrilla had detrimentally affected fish populations, and in an extreme case in Florida, it had caused a human drowning. Therefore, volunteers and engineers went to work in Lake Waco, removing the hydrilla and planting water willows and bullrushes that will eventually overtake hydrilla infestations. These native species will provide a better habitat for fish and more pleasant surroundings for swimmers and explorers.

Haskell has already noticed the new plants starting to grow, and he is pleased to see the seed spreading into deeper waters. However, as he surveys the plant survival rate, the extreme heat is cause for concern.

When talking about water quality in Lake Waco, many people's thoughts automatically turn to the taste of the water. The Corps of Engineers has taken small steps; to combat the algae that affect water taste, they have introduced bass. Although, the introduction of native plants will have a minimal affect on the water taste, the fish, swimmers, and boaters were the larger concern in this effort. Haskell says he is pleased with what he's seeing thus far, but next summer is when the Army Corps of Engineers can really evaluate the success of the program.

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