Funding is drying up to control hydrilla in the Harris Chain
LEESBURG – Hydrilla in the Harris Chain of Lakes is flourishing as funding to control it is drying up.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has spent all the money originally earmarked for aquatic plant management in the 2018-19 fiscal year, which started in July. The agency even added more to help combat it, but that won’t be enough.
“They have either done the treatments or have purchased chemicals for scheduled treatments,” said Mike Perry, the executive director of the Lake County Water Authority. “After that, there is no more money. And hydrilla doesn’t stop growing even if there’s no money.”
The invasive water plant can grow up to a foot a day during the warmer months. It can impede waterway navigation, frustrating recreational boaters and kayakers. And in recent years, the plant has become nearly uncontrollable.
Immediately after Hurricane Irma in September 2017, treating hydrilla on the Harris Chain became difficult. Extra water flowing in the ecosystem made aquatic herbicides ineffective during a prime treatment season.
The problem snowballed from there.
“They couldn’t treat sufficiently during that time and during that delay, the hydrilla went crazy,” Perry said.
Now FWC is playing catch-up. And local officials like Perry are begging for more money.