Newport News using fish to combat invasive weed in reservoir

Posted at 6:30 PM, Jul 19, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-20 06:25:36-04

James City County, Va. (WTKR) - The City of Newport News is turning to fish when it comes to battling an invasive species of weed.

Since 2007, landowners and staff with Newport News Waterworks have noticed the growth of hydrilla at the Diascund Reservoir.

Located on the border of James City County and New Kent County, the reservoir is a source of drinking water for the Peninsula. Hydrilla, a thick, ropey, weed has taken over and spread quickly in the reservoir.

"Hydrilla is an invasive water weed," explained Newport News Watershed Property Administrator Andrew Rich. "The thought is that it was brought over in aquariums as part of the aquarium trade in Florida then it was dumped into waterways and of course spread from there."

To combat the problem, Newport News Waterworks released 1,000 sterile grass carp into the Diascund Reservoir in late March.

"The grass carp feed on hydrilla. It`s one of their favorite foods," Rich explained. "The carp have been used across the country and in other resevoirs in the state and they`ve done a good job so we thought we`d try them here."

NewsChannel 3 visited the reservoir in April, before the hydrilla started growing in the summer heat. Fisherman Stanford Wells related how the hydrilla problem was getting so out of hand, that it would choke boats and make the waterway nearly impassable during the summer.

"Up until maybe mid-June you can fish, but come here in the heat of the summer in July and its just full of hydrilla," Wells explained.

NewsChannel 3 returned to the reservoir Friday. Fisherman said they noticed a difference. While hydrilla was still growing near the shoreline, the waterway was noticeably clearer and more navigable than in summers past.

"Once the hydrilla is in here, we`re not going to eliminate it," Rich explained. "It`s here to stay, but the carp will eat enough to hold it back."

This fall the Newport News Waterworks was evaluate the success of the carp program and decide whether additional fish should be added to the reservoir.

In March, 100 carp were also released into the Lee Hall Reservoir as a part of a pilot program.