Near Howey, hy­drilla hits Lit­tle Lake Har­ris hard

Orlando Sentinel - - LOCAL & STATE - By Jerry Fall­strom

Howey-in-the-Hills res­i­dents are alarmed that hy­drilla, a pea­green in­va­sive aquatic weed, is grow­ing out of con­trol in Lit­tle Lake Har­ris and pre­vent­ing peo­ple from ac­cess­ing the lake from their docks, Mayor Chris Sears said Fri­day.

“I’m ex­tremely con­cerned about the health of the lake. The hy­drilla is get­ting just ex­po­nen­tially big­ger and wider,” Sears said. “It looks to be half­way out in Lit­tle Lake Har­ris now.”

The prob­lem is most crit­i­cal in ar­eas of the lake bor­der­ing North Lakeshore Boule­vard, a cou­ple of blocks from the his­toric Howey man­sion, which has been re­fur­bished and has be­come a pop­u­lar tourist at­trac­tion for the Lake County town of about 1,200 about 40 miles north­west of down­town Or­lando.

Look­ing for an­swers on how to com­bat the prob­lem, Howey in­vited a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Com­mis­sion to speak to town coun­cil mem­bers at their meet­ing Mon­day night. FWC in­va­sive plant man­age­ment bi­ol­o­gist Nathalie Viss­cher is due to ap­pear when the meet­ing be­gins at 6 p.m.

Sears is hop­ing for a big turnout from res­i­dents to em­pha­size the need for ac­tion.

“I think the more peo­ple we can have there the bet­ter,” said Sears, who has been mayor since 2008 and added he hasn’t seen hy­drilla this bad in the 25 years he’s lived in Howey. He said he’s talked to res­i­dents who’ve lived in town for 50 years and it’s the worst they’ve seen it, too.

Viss­cher didn’t im­me­di­ately re­turn a phone call seek­ing com­ment.

Eas­ily spread by boats, hy­drilla is a sub­mersed plant with a long stalk and clus­ters of leaves that can grow to the sur­face, where they form dense mats and im­pede nav­i­ga­tion.

Hy­drilla can be detri­men­tal to “ben­e­fi­cial na­tive habi­tat, nav­i­ga­tion, flood con­trol, potable and ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter sup­plies, re­cre­ation and the aes­thetic qual­i­ties of lakes,” ac­cord­ing to FWC’s web­site. “The FWC strives to balance th­ese needs while manag­ing hy­drilla.”

Sears said he wants to hear if the FWC plans to spray the hy­drilla and re­move it. In March, the FWC treated 2,285 acres of in­va­sive hy­drilla on neigh­bor­ing Lake Har­ris, also part of the Har­ris Chain of Lakes, to im­prove nav­i­ga­tion on por­tions of the lake.

“We’re not overex­ag­ger­at­ing the is­sue by any means — it is bad,” Sears said. “It’s prob­a­bly the num­ber one topic right now — peo­ple ask me, ‘What’s go­ing on with the hy­drilla?’”

HOWEY.ORG

Hy­drilla growth in Lit­tle Lake Har­ris is caus­ing some to worry about the health of the lake near Howey-inthe-Hills. Mayor Chris Sears says, “We’re not overex­ag­ger­at­ing the is­sue by any means — it is bad.”

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