TVA keeps recreation areas safe by controlling plant overgrowth - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

TVA keeps recreation areas safe by controlling plant overgrowth

Posted: Aug 08, 2018 5:01 PM Updated:

It's been two weeks since a man flipped his kayak at Harrison Bay State Park and drowned. Family says Christopher Goodine got tangled in the weeds at the bottom of of the bay and never resurfaced.

According to TVA, crews surveyed and sprayed herbicide in that area about five days before the drowning. This is something the agency has done routinely since the late 1950s at nearly 50 reservoirs across the Southeast.

READ MORE | "Christopher lived large": Parents of kayaker who died at Harrison Bay remember their son

"Not only can use be impacted, but public safety in those access areas. We try to keep vegetation down in those areas and manage routinely," says Dr. Brett Hartis. He runs TVA's Aquatic Plant Management program.

He goes out every three to four weeks to check for overgrowth at designated developed areas such as public boat ramps, marinas, and recreation areas. He surveys anywhere from 20 to 50 yards from the shore lines. He looks above the surface, but also uses SONAR to look for overgrowth under water.

"Everything that this boat goes over I can see when I get back into the office at the end of the week, and determine if and when management night be needed," says Hartis.

READ MORE | TVA Aquatic Plant Management Program

Where necessary he'll spray an EPA-approved herbicide to keep things under control. He says it doesn't harm people or fish.

"Essentially what these herbicides do is impact the plant, knock it down to the root system," explains Hartis.

Whatever he treats never actually dies, so he goes back to survey these areas over and over again to make sure overgrowth stays in check. So far this year Mother Nature has cut down a bit on the work load.

"Vegetation was a lot slower coming on this year, mainly due to the cold winter that we had and due to the flow in the spring time," adds Hartis.

He says TVA isn't required by law to manage the overgrowth, but the agency felt a responsibility to start the program after noticing the problem.

Areas that do not have direct public access aren't managed. These spots are usually the ones popular with anglers. Fishing is a large part of the region's multi-billion dollar recreation industry, so aquatic vegetation is important in these areas not suitable for swimming.

"Fish have everything they need. They have shelter, they can find food, and be effective predators in these areas," says Hartis.

According to TWRA, vegetation did not hinder their search for Christopher Goodine after his kayak tipped over.

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