Bishop, Chytka talk to locals about hydrilla problem on lake

Published 8:44 pm Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Col. Jon Chytka (left), Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District, sits with Congresmman Sanford Bishop as they address questions and concerns about the hydrilla infestation at Lake Seminole. Locals were able to attend the “town hall meeting” and personally speak with the officials about the issue. — Powell Cobb

Residents from the Lake Seminole area filled the Seminole County Courthouse Tuesday evening to show their concern for the growing hydrilla problem in the waters they recreate in.

Held in a “town hall meeting” format, residents were able to ask questions and express concerns about the thriving weed to Congressman Sanford Bishop and Col. Jon Chytka, Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District.

Lake Seminole’s hydrilla infestation poses a serious danger to the lake’s aquatic inhabitants, experts claim. The weed’s ability to multiply at alarmingly high speeds has enabled it to dominate the vegetation within the lake. As hydrilla grows, it gradually creates a thick, blanket-like cover near the water’s surface, which drastically impedes sunlight and oxygen from reaching the lake’s submerged plant life.

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“Anybody can see the problem,” Bishop said. “Hydrilla remains a real danger to the natural ecology of Lake Seminole. The economic concerns have to be addressed, but most importantly we have got to get a handle on it.”

Chytka, who assumed his role as commander of the 51st Corps of Engineers in August 2013, said he was well briefed on the Lake Seminole infestation and understood the connection and passion locals had with the water. He said he understood what they had to loose if the Hydrilla problem wasn’t put under control.

The dense network of hydrilla that forms near the water’s surface significantly limits boat use and other forms of water recreation. Furthermore, it may lead to a decrease in property values of real-estate surrounding Lake Seminole as the recreational-related resources within the area are negatively impacted.

“Hydrilla is doing extremely well, and we have had really wonderful herbicides in the past,” Chytka said. “Sometimes it does a really good job, but certain types of hydrilla are tolerant, so we have to change. We do really well for the budget we have for the whole project, and part of that is what we do for taking care of the hydrilla problem and other aquatic evasives.”

Residents spoke about the problems they have had fishing and traveling the waterways because of the infestation, and all questions were answered by Bishop, Chytka and the Corps of Engineers biologists on hand.

Chytka said there was no way to kill off the weed entirely, but it could still be managed. He said he didn’t foresee that problem ever changing.

“The challenge will always be there, but it will have to be a continuous effort by us, and I say us because there are things that the public can do also, in order to minimize the effects on the lake,” Chytka said.

Bishop noted the hydrilla problem has always been high on his list of issues, and even spoke about addressing the problem with Lake Seminole and fishing legend Jack Wingate

“It has been a priority for me,” Bishop said. “The last time I was able to spend with the late Jack Wingate, he insisted I come and spend the afternoon with him on the lake where he personally showed me the hydrilla problem. Hydrilla was very much a concern of his, and the welfare of the lake.”

Hydrilla has been in the Lake Seminole area since 1967.