“This is a volcano ready to erupt and we need to diffuse it,” said Jeff Conway, district manager of Reclamation District 800, the organization that operates and maintains the area’s levees. “This is the worst year I’ve seen in 13 or 14 years, and I don’t see it getting any better next year. We need to get it managed and under control.”
Responding to the outpouring of community concern over the increasing prevalence of the egeria densa this year, Discovery Bay General Manager Rick Howard said the CSD plans to send a letter to the Department of Boating and Waterways (DBW) on behalf of the town.
“The CSD became involved as a result of resident complaints about the mass of aquatic weeds that seem to have plagued a great number of bays and waterways in Discovery Bay this summer,” said Howard. “While the (CSD) board does not have direct authority over the subject, they are in a position to advise and provide input to other local agencies. Quality of life is an important issue for this board and their proactive approach to this issue is consistent with that principle.”
Although the presence of the ergia densa is not new to Discovery Bay, this year’s perfect storm of temperature, water and sunlight has caused the prolific underwater weed to expand its reach, clogging area bays and waterways. And what was once a fairly manageable problem, handled by simply pulling the seaweed out by the roots, has taken on a life of its own.
“It’s a huge problem that’s only getting worse,” said Discovery Bay resident David Koch, who works a few months a year removing the ergia densa for area residents. “Once the seaweed gets within the range where it grows across an area like, say, Cabrillo Bay, then everything in there dies. We find cats, birds and all kinds of things in there. Everyone is frustrated; the weed has killed the engine in our barge many times. It’s worse this year than ever before.”
Some residents stymied by the ongoing problem have begun to take matters into their own hands, dumping chlorine and rock salt into the bays in the hopes of stifling the tendrils of weeds.
“A lot people are doing it more and more,” said Koch. “It’s a huge nuisance. Everyone wants to be safe and help the environment, but at the end of the day, if they have to keep looking at crap in the bay, they don’t always make the wisest decisions. It’s frustrating for everyone.”
There is, however, a treatment product call Sonar, which kills the weeds but is environmentally friendly to the water and its inhabitants. The catch is that the pesticide is not only expensive (approximately $1,000 to $1,500 per acre per application); it requires a permit, making the product unavailable to residents.
Because Rec 800 is a government agency, it has obtained the appropriate permits to obtain the sonar pellets – but not the dollars. In May, Rec 800 began treating the small, 90-acre lake (which it owns) with sonar pellets. So far, the treatment appears successful.
The challenge now, said Conway, is convincing the DBW that the open waterways throughout Discovery Bay warrant the agency stepping in; something it does only on an urgent basis, such as unblocking navigational routes or removing obvious safety hazards.
“I’ve been talking with the Department of Boating and Waterways and it looks like we’re going to have a meeting soon to discuss options,” said Conway. “I’m cautiously optimistic we can get something done; they seem very willing to help.
“I wish we had the money to go out there and do it ourselves. This year is over, but next year is going to be just as bad, if not worse. It’s a huge, multi-faceted problem that’s not going away.”