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Research prompts task force to take action on rapidly spreading invasive plant in Eno River

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Pat McCrory, Governor
John E. Skvarla, III, Secretary

Release Note: 
Charlie Peek
Release Date: 
Monday, September 8, 2014

Research prompts task force to take action on rapidly spreading invasive plant in Eno River

RALEIGH -- Research by North Carolina State University and the state parks system suggests that a significant infestation of the invasive plant hydrilla in the Eno River is spreading down river at a rate of up to one mile per year, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

The threat to the river basin is prompting a multi-agency task force to launch a broad public education effort to identify the best methods of treatment for the river within Eno River State Park. Those may be chemical treatment, removal of the plant by hand, introduction of grass carp, which feed on hydrilla, or a combination of those methods. The task force hopes to initiate efforts to control hydrilla in 2015.

Hydrilla is a submersed aquatic plant that can create nearly impenetrable mats of stems and leaves on the surface of lakes, rivers and other waterways. An invasive species from Asia, hydrilla impedes recreational use of waterways, crowds out native vegetation and can ultimately harm fish and other aquatic species. The plant can also clog intakes where rivers or reservoirs are used for drinking water supplies and irrigation.

"This is a very real threat to the Eno River, both in terms of recreation and the vulnerable species in the waterway," said Keith Nealson, Eno River State Park superintendent. "The Eno is not only a natural and cultural treasure for people in this region, but a bellwether for the health of the river basin, including Falls Lake and other sources of drinking water."

Nealson and 11 other officials are members of the Eno River Hydrilla Management Task Force that is launching the public education effort. The task force involves partners from the N.C. Division of Water Resources as well as other state and federal agencies, Durham and Orange counties, and the city of Durham and town of Hillsborough. Members include land managers, researchers and agency administrators.

Hydrilla infestation appears to be concentrated near Guess Road at the eastern end of the state park. It originally appeared in Lake Orange and West Fork Eno Reservoir upstream. The plant readily fragments and those fragmented sections can grow into new plants. The hydrilla at Eno River State Park likely came from fragments that floated down from an upstream reservoir or was carried on boat trailers or bait buckets. With its rapid growth rate and the ability to grow a new plant from a tiny fragment, hydrilla could eventually become a serious nuisance in Falls Lake. Research estimates the plant could reach the lake within 12 years, depending on water flow conditions.