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DEPARTMENT OF WILDLIFE AND FISHERIES DRAWS DOWN WATER LEVELS TO COMBAT INFESTATION OF GIANT SALVINIA IN TURKEY CREEK
WILDLIFE OFFICIALS: '95 PERCENT OF INFESTATION HAS DISAPPEARED'
With the drawdown of Turkey Creek Lake about half complete, Louisiana Wildlife and Fishery officials are touting the effort to beat back the giant salvinia infestation as a tremendous success.
About 95 percent of the free-floating vegetation that once threatened to choke fish populations from the lake is gone, said Fisheries manager Evan Thames.
"At this time, the lake is in great shape salvinia-wise. With the freeze and spraying, we have just about wiped out about everything we could," he said. "We may actually be able to eliminate it from the system, which is more than we had expected."
In December, the Franklin Parish Police Jury approved the lowering of water levels at Turkey Creek Lake, dropping the water line by as much as five feet to dry out vegetation accumulations.
State officials had warned jurors that the rapid growth vegetation had the potential to obliterate wildlife populations in the lake if left unchecked.
The drawdown started May 17 and is expected to continue for about another two weeks.
Thames said water levels are falling approximately two inches daily.
The lake has dropped about two and a half feet since the drawdown began, he said.
Wildlife officials don't know how the plant made its way to Louisiana, but speculate that it could have grown from people dumping the plant, which is often used in aquariums, into waterways. The plant can be transferred from waterway to waterway by clinging to boats, officials said.
Sportsmen are still able to easily fish in the lake, despite receding water levels. The drawdown is also giving Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development officials a needed opportunity to inspect the lake's dam, which they say is badly in need of repair.
Another advantage of the drawdown is its potential to boost fish populations by increasing the fertility of spawning areas — located close to the water's edge under normal levels, according to officials.
"We are expecting to see an exponential increase in the amount of spawning area as well as the tremendous growth of fish production in pounds-per-acre," Thames said.
Police Jury President Ricky Campbell, who represents the Turkey Creek district, said the drawdown will afford local officials a great door to extend the landing at the parish's RV park on the lake.
Money left over for park development could be used to fund the project and dam repairs, parish officials said.
"I think the jury should be well pleased with the process as it has gone so far and that we can move ahead with some of the things we would like to do while the lake is down," Campbell said.
Once the drawdown is finished, water levels will be kept at five feet below normal for two to three months.