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Regional Resource Stewardship Council
Water Quality Subcommittee

Recommendations on TVA Management of Aquatic Plants

Approved by the Regional Resource Stewardship Council on May 18, 2001


Aquatic plants, primarily exotic plant species, cause problems for some reservoir users and for water uses at several waters within the TVA system. Dense and extensive beds of aquatic plants are perceived differently by various stakeholders. Some stakeholders demand aquatic plant “control” or even “eradication.” Others, primarily anglers, are strong advocates for aquatic plants because they increase desirable fish densities and provide excellent fish habitat. These divergent viewpoints create controversy over the extent of the “problem” and whether there is a need for aquatic plant management.

Even if there is agreement on the need for aquatic plant management, opinions differ widely on the “best” method to be used to reduce plant densities. Options include: reservoir draw-down, mechanical harvest and removal, biological controls (primarily grass carp) and chemical herbicides. All options have their intrinsic pros and cons. None are universally the “perfect” management tool.

Cost of aquatic plant management varies from several hundred to several thousand dollars per acre, depending on the method selected. These costs quickly become very expensive when hundreds, or thousands, of acres of plants are targeted for management.

In summary, the issues surrounding aquatic plant management in the TVA system include: jurisdictional and administrative responsibility; definition of the problem; justification for developing a management plan; defining the locations to be managed; selecting the management tool(s); implementing and administering the management program and funding the costs of management.

Policy for managing aquatic plants in the Tennessee River system

TVA will assume the leadership responsibility for resolving problems with, and disputes over, aquatic plants within the Tennessee River system. TVA will take the lead in bringing stakeholders and technical experts together to discuss and define the problems, voice concerns, design management plans, and develop funding strategies. Administration, implementation, and financial responsibilities will be negotiated among local, state, and federal government agencies, TVA and other stakeholders.

TVA has the responsibility for organizing the stakeholders, defining aquatic plant problem(s), and designing aquatic plant management plans. Because the Tennessee River is a federal waterway and because aquatic plant management is a routine activity of federal water management agencies, it is appropriate for TVA to pursue federal funding assistance for aquatic plant management. It is also appropriate for TVA to negotiate with local government and aquatic plant management beneficiaries to ask them to share an equitable portion of aquatic plant management costs. These negotiations should result in written financial agreements among the aquatic plant management partners to assure management program continuity.

The planning team for any aquatic plant management plan must be composed of the range of all of the stakeholders from within the watershed who have an interest in aquatic plant management. A representative list of stakeholders should include, but not be limited to: local citizens; lakeside property owners; lake associations; recreational users (anglers, boaters, swimmers, hunters); marina owners; federal, state and local government natural resource and tourism agencies and elected officials; environmental and conservation groups; tourism interests; local businesses and industries and interested universities. The plan will clearly describe the problem(s) and define goals, objectives, strategies and evaluation techniques. The planning process will be open to the public. A scoping session to identify public concerns must be part of the process. Implementation plans will be conveniently available at TVA and cooperating stakeholder locations.

Annual goals and performance reports will be provided to the media by TVA, and/or designated stakeholders, and through public meetings in selected communities. On recurring aquatic plant management programs, the original stakeholder planning group will be converted into a stakeholder advisory group that will be used to monitor and apply adaptive management decisions to the management objectives.

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