He watched on Thursday, Dec. 6, as a thick carpet of green vegetation ebbed beneath him toward the entrance his docks at 6020 Lindemann Road.
About a quarter of a mile from his boat slots, the mass of water hyacinth stretches several hundred yards from the marina into Old River. The plant has clogged the river from bank to bank — a span of about 150 feet.
It’s a sight Pease and boaters on the Delta annually contend with for several months, as the water hyacinth spreads through San Joaquin Delta waterways. But Pease believes the problem has gotten worse during the past two years, as state-regulated spraying is coming later in the growing season and hurting his business.
Water hyacinth is an invasive plant species from South America that was introduced into the Delta more than 100 years ago. During warmer months, the plant can double in size every 10 days and form a layer up to 6 feet thick on top of or below the water’s surface, according to the California Department of Boating and Waterways website.
“The biggest concern is the state not controlling the water hyacinth,” Pease said. “It is growing faster than they can spray.”
Pease, 63, and his wife, Donna, have co-owned the marina for six years with partners Ron and Sandy Mize.
The marina has operated at the mouth of Old River for 52 years, and serves boaters from Tracy, Mountain House and as far away as Santa Cruz, Pease said.
But the water hyacinth closed the entrance to the marina in mid October, and Pease estimates the loss of business for the marina between $30,000 and $50,000 this year.
On a good day, Pease said 30 to 40 fishermen should be launching from the marina. On Dec. 6, the parking lot was empty, even though it’s the middle of striper fishing season.
Pease estimates he lost about $30,000 in business due to closures caused by the water hyacinth.
“Now we are seeing the repercussion — multiple marinas are going out of business,” he said.
A complicated system
Gloria Sandoval, spokeswoman for the California Department of Boating and Waterways, said the Aquatic Weed Control program is tasked with reigning in the fast spreading weed in the Delta.
The spraying process requires two federal permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 requires that these permits are obtained before spraying herbicides.
A third state permit must be obtained from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board, which requires that a permit is acquired from the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.
The earliest spraying can begin is April. But this year, spraying was Aug. 13 to Oct. 15 because of a delay in federal approval. An extension was granted until November because of unseasonably warmer weather.
Spraying is permitted at any one location a maximum of four times a year.
Sandoval said the state was not late filing for the permits this year and that the department understands the severity of the problem.
She was unclear as to why there was a nearly four-month delay in receiving the federal permits but said the approval process takes time and that there is no guarantee when permits will be issued.
Bureaucracy breakdown That delay is one of the reasons Pease blames the growing problem on the state agency and its efforts.
“They didn’t get the permit because they didn’t apply in time,” he said. “I can’t get the answer — it’s an issue between the state and federal government for permits.”
Pease believes part of the problem is the California Aqueduct and Delta-Mendota Canal water pumps that are stationed about one mile north of the marina.
The pumping continuously pulls the water hyacinth against the river’s current and into the mouth of the marina, he said.
Steve Geissinger, a spokesman for the Bureau of Reclamations Mid-Pacific division, said the Tracy Fish Collection Facility about a quarter-mile from the Delta-Mendota pumps has hauled away 4,152 dump truck loads of water hyacinth from October 20 through Dec. 4.
The trucks hauled away 41,150 cubic yards or 1,121,040 cubic feet of water hyacinth, he said.
“We are very serious about removing the hyacinth,” Geissinger said. “The rapid spread of the weed — the infestation is a real problem.”
But the efforts don’t seem to be helping, as the water hyacinth continues to multiply.
Pease is trying to get all the state and federal agencies, and Rep. Jerry McNerney, state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier and Contra Costa Supervisor Mary Piepho together at the Tracy Fish Collection Facility for a meeting about making the permit process more efficient.
Lauren Smith, director of communications for McNerney’s office, said the congressman is scheduled to meet with Pease today, Friday, Dec. 14.
Smith said the congressman’s office has fielded a handful of calls in the past few weeks from people concerned about the water hyacinth problem.
She said his staff has begun researching the problem and is reaching out to the various agencies to access the permit process moving forward.
Smith said they would also look into what happened this year that delayed the start of spraying from April to the summer.
The months of delay are one of the issues that Pease hopes to correct during the meeting on Friday.
“My goal is to show them the problem,” Pease said. “Help facilitate a meeting with all the parties together to see the problem — see what the lack of coordination is causing. They don’t understand the implications it has on business. So many others are being impacted by the water hyacinth”
• Contact Glenn Moore at 830-4252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.