Travis Schwalm of Aquatic Vegetation Control reported to the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council on Tuesday, June 15 that aquatic plants are 85 percent clear in town canals, while aquatic grasses are 95 percent clear.
“We had a bloom of water lettuce that reproduces every 24 hours, but we’re on top of that now,” Schwalm said. “Give or take next month, we will have 100 percent treatment throughout the whole district for what the South Florida Water Management would want, which is a 95 percent coverage rate.”
He said his company had sprayed all the canals over the past few months, but they had controlled their spraying to avoid killing fish and other animals. “Our goal is not to have any incidents with wildlife,” Schwalm said.
Vice Mayor Laura Danowski asked when de-mucking to remove dead material on the bottom of the canals would begin, using a bacterial chemical that would break down the dead plants.
Schwalm said he needed to talk with Public Works Director Larry Peters about when to start the process.
“That’s something we will have to discuss,” he said. “Maybe we will want to try that application, because right now we are under budget on the time and chemical costs.”
Councilwoman Marge Herzog asked what effect the coming rainy season would have on the treatment, and Schwalm said it would actually be beneficial.
“It will actually help us because it will pull everything to one end of the district for drainage,” he said. “That way, we can hit any of the floating water lettuce instead of it being scattered throughout the whole canal.”
Schwalm said within a few weeks, his company will have the aquatic plants under control and be able to go to a maintenance level of spraying.
“We will go down the whole edge for any new growth,” he said. “We will go down the banks and do a one-foot pass. What we’re shooting for is six inches to a foot because the water fluctuation does go up and down a little bit.”
He noted that some grass in the water is beneficial to wildlife.
“There is a lot of fish life right now. There’s baby ducks swimming, there’s otters up and down Collecting Canal,” Schwalm said. “The wildlife right now is thriving pretty well.”
Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia said she noticed grass on the banks dying, raising the question of allowing the banks to erode into the canals.
“Does your company have any suggestions for what we should seed our banks with that would grab and hold and preserve them?” Maniglia asked.
Schwalm said the town’s banks have a lot of shell rock.
“Most of your grasses, like Bahia or St. Augustine grass, if you don’t keep it watered and fertilized, it’s not going to grow very well, then you’re going to have boom mowing on a monthly basis to a level where it’s going to hold the banks,” he said.
He said trees on the banks are treated but not pulled up because it would disturb the banks further.
“You don’t really want to yank them because it would disturb the root system, then you will get a washout,” Schwalm said. “When we kill them, we kill them at a slow rate down to the root system. That way you’re not disturbing the soil around them.”
Town Manager Jamie Titcomb said information will be added to the town’s web site to be shared with the public about the aquatic vegetation clearing process.
“If there are specific things you want the public to know, we can put that information up,” Titcomb said.