A pilot project working to reduce an invasive weed in the Eno River is reaching its conclusion and officials are looking to the future of protecting the river.
Hydrilla is an aquatic plant that can create a nearly impenetrable layer in rivers, according to the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
“It grows from tubers way underneath the water. Once it gets a head start, it just grows and grows until you’ve got this almost impenetrable mat of leaves and stems on the surface,” State Park System Charlie Peek said in a previous interview with WCHL.
Peek said hydrilla can then throw off the delicate environment it is infiltrating.
“Not only is it just an irritant, in that it can coat the surface of the water, but it’ll crowd out native vegetation and native animal species, such as the fish and the mollusks. Then it becomes pretty serious because you’re upsetting the balance of that ecosystem.”
A two-year project aimed at reducing hydrilla in the Eno River was launched in the spring of 2015 by the Eno River Hydrilla Management Task Force. An herbicide was approved by the federal Environmental Protection Agency in 2014 to be used to treat a 16-mile stretch largely within the Eno River State Park in Orange and Durham counties.
State officials are now describing that project as “successful” and saying that this was the first time the herbicide was used to successfully combat hydrilla in a North Carolina river. Officials say the herbicide was previously successful in large lakes.
The herbicide was used in a concentration that was safe to swimmers and boaters and also non-toxic to fish and wildlife.
The task force is also prepared to put forward a widespread action plan to “manage the infestation” of hydrilla and introduce a longer-term treatment plan. The group will do so at an informal, open house-style meeting at the Cedar Grove Community Center at 6:30 Wednesday evening. The meeting is open to the public.