The California Department of Boating and Waterways recently received the permit to spray two herbicides from March 18 to Nov. 30 on the water hyacinth — a plant species indigenous to South America that was introduced into the Delta more than 100 years ago.
During warm months, the plant can double in size every 10 days and form a layer six feet thick on top of or below the surface of the water, according to the Department of Boating and Waterways website.
The department — which controls the water hyacinth program that covers waterways from Sacramento south to Madera — is permitted to spray the herbicides glyphosate and 2,4-D, according to department spokeswoman Gloria Sandoval.
Sandoval said survey teams reported seeing hyacinth in the Tracy area at Sugar Cut, Old River and the River’s End Marina on March 7, and spraying began in those areas on March 18.
“Due to the characteristics of the invasive plant, lack of a heavy frost, continued warm temperatures and a late treatment start, last year’s water hyacinth infestation was unusual,” she said.
Crews in a small boat spray one of the two herbicides — depending on the area of the Delta — directly onto the water hyacinth to kill it.
In 2012, permit delays kept officials from spraying the herbicides until June, allowing the floating weed to gain a stranglehold on local waterways.
Bill Pease, co-owner of River’s End Marina & Storage, spoke to the Tracy Press on Dec. 14 at his 6020 Lindemann Road marina, which was essentially closed by the encroaching water hyacinth.
“The biggest concern is the state not controlling the water hyacinth,” Pease said during the interview. “It is growing faster than they can spray. … Now we are seeing the repercussion — multiple marinas are going out of business.”
On Monday, March 25, Pease called the failure to kill the weeds promptly a “self-inflicted wound,” because they were allowed to grow rampant before controls began. The overgrowth caused a loss of $50,000 when his marina had to close for three months in the fall.
“I can’t make up (my losses from that time),” he said. “Yes, it’s good that it’s resolved and it should help.”
Susan Eggman, assemblywoman for the 13th District, said the plant eventually floats into the deep-water shipping channels of Stockton.
According to Eggman, she also began hearing in 2012 from people affected by the hyacinth and would receive daily emails from the Stockton chamber of commerce executive director, Douglas Wilholt Jr., about the effect it was having on the local boating and shipping economy.
Elected to her first term in November, Eggman said she met in January with John Laird, California secretary for natural resources, to discuss spraying efforts and removing the bureaucratic red tape surrounding the permitting process.
“I see the problem every day when government doesn’t work,” she said. “There wasn’t a sense of urgency that I could see before.”
Sandoval believes the early spraying “will help greatly, because we are able to try and control the plant early on.”
In the past, herbicides were typically sprayed from mid-April to Oct. 15. Spraying is done as needed, with no set schedule.
“It gives us a longer window to treat the hyacinth,” she said.
Some parts of the Delta north of Tracy won’t be sprayed until June 1 because of regulations protecting the spawning and migrating patterns of sturgeon, steelhead salmon, Chinook salmon and Delta smelt.
Applying herbicides in the Delta can be tricky, because water currents and wind keep the water hyacinth’s location unpredictable.
Pease said he wants “to be optimistic this year” but is still worried that the level of spraying during the summer may not be enough to stunt the weed’s growth for the following spring.
“The problem is at the other end of the growing season,” he said. “I am worried about did they do an adequate job, did they spray long enough in the right spots to prevent it from becoming a major problem.”
• Contact Glenn Moore at 830-4252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
At a glance
• To report water hyacinth, call 888-326-2822 or go to the Department of Boating and Waterways website, www.dbw.ca.gov.