Guilford County officials working to prevent spread of hydrilla at Lake Higgins

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — A popular Guilford County fishing spot is closed to motor boats as technicians work to control the spread of a fast growing water plant.

“In May, it was an average report,” Dell Harney said. “In July, we started to see it. And then boom, it’s here. So it can happen very quickly.”

Hydrilla can anchor itself to the bottom of a lake and grow as long as 25 feet. At the top of the water, it can branch out and form thick mats.

Dell Harney is the Water Supply Manger for the City of Greensboro. While surveying Lake Higgins, he described why it is important to reduce the hydrilla population and keep motor boats off of the lake.

“It’s an issue because it competes with native plants,” Harney said. “It can take oxygen out of the water when it gets too much. The props from the boats can chop it up, and then it propagates in that manner.”

Hydrilla can also reduce the size of fish and slow down the flow of water to our homes.

“So Lake Higgins spills into Lake Brandt which has the intake for the Mitchell Water Treatment Plant. So we don’t want the weed to get into that area where it is getting into pumps and things like that.”

Greensboro Water Resources along with Greensboro Parks and Recreation closed Lake Higgins to motorized boats. With the lake now mostly calm, Water Resources fired up their air boat and began their safe, targeted battle with hydrilla.

“It’s not something you add to the lake,” Harney said. “That is what makes it so work intensive. You have to find where it’s growing and spot apply it.”

Harney said you know the treatments are working when parts of the plant are floating on the surface or washed up on the shore.

“We are making progress. It’s a big lake. There’s a lot of area out there,” Harney said.

Lake Higgins averages 50 motorized boats a week. Fisherman make up a large number of boat operators because the lake is known for its bass.

Now that the lake is closed, fisherman have to find a new spot.

“We apologize,” Harney said. “We know that people are use to taking their motor boats out and doing some bass fishing, especially now with COVID-19 going on. It’s a nice way to get away from what’s going on.”

Water Resources hopes to reopen Lake Higgins to motorized boats soon. But a more likely time frame is spring 2021. Kayaks, canoes and stand up paddle boards are allowed.

Hydrilla can be found in all 100 North Carolina counties.

To prevent large hydrilla outbreaks, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission suggest cleaning your boats of all aquatic plants and mud. 

Also, never move a plant or fish from one body of water to another.

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