From Lawrence, Kansas (PRWEB) September 14, 2009:
When a hurricane roars inland, most low-lying coastal states rely on a network of pumps and canals to dissipate the storm surge and protect both lives and property. But add invasive plants and weeds to the mix, and you have a recipe for a disaster. Overgrown vegetation can wreak havoc and promote
flooding by jamming pumps and blocking water flow.
According to the Weed Science Society of America, common culprits include floating water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes), submersed hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) and other fast-growing water plants.
The problem is especially pervasive in Florida, where public lakes are connected by creeks, rivers or constructed canals that ultimately lead to the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean. Some of the largest pumps in the world are used to manage storm runoff and keep the surrounding areas from flooding.
“Invasive plants tend to coalesce at flood control structures in lakes and canals and at bends in river channels,” says Jeffrey Schardt, environmental administrator for invasive plant management with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “If left unmanaged, they can clog pumps, impede water flow and make flooding much, much worse. It’s imperative to have the overgrowth under control before a hurricane barrels inland.”
Schardt says problems associated with invasive plants like water hyacinth and water lettuce reached crisis proportions along Florida’s waterways during the 1960s. But officials learned from that experience and have adopted routine maintenance controls to help prevent a recurrence.
“We’ve found a single patch of water hyacinth can double in size in as little as two weeks during the growing season – forming large rafts that can be carried by wind and water currents, clog pumps and cause flooding,” Schardt says. “Time is not our friend, so we concentrate on frequent, small-scale control operations to prevent large-scale problems from developing.”
Florida law imposes strict penalties for “introducing” invasive plants in Florida water courses. Merely possessing these potentially destructive plants may lead to the imposition of fines or imprisonment or both.