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Lake Bistineau residents hopeful in fight against giant salvinia

Residents around Lake Bistineau share mixed feelings but are hopeful the fight against giant salvinia will restore their beloved lake.

Tracey Delrie, who lives on Lake Bistineau, said while the salvinia is bad, she knows that the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and lake residents are doing all they can to revive a dying lake.

“The quality of life on Lake Bistineau, for me, is great,” she said. “Yes, the salvinia is a problem, and LDWF has done everything in their power to help manage it. You cannot eradicate this stuff. Right now, the lake is drawn down, but I have taken my grandchildren out on field trips into the lakebed.”

Over the last 10 years, Delrie said the quality of the lake is not what it used to be, but “it’s what you make of it.”

“If you’re mad because of the draw downs, or mad because of the salvinia, you can’t help that,” she said. “These people with political pull who said let’s keep the lake open a little longer, well that was a total disaster. Normally I can go out onto the lakebed and we can do all kinds of scavenger hunts with my grandchildren, but the lakebed is so mushy right now, we’ll only let them go so far for fear of them sinking.”

Delrie lives in the Spring Branch area, where natural springs are underneath her property. Because of that, she said she is a little discouraged in that the salvinia on her lakefront likely will not die.

“We make the best of it,” she said. “You can look at the green monster, which is what we call it, with anger and animosity; however, if you look at the beauty of the lake, enjoy what we have and take advantage of what is out there right now. My quality of life is that I have the best of both worlds. I have the lake in front of my house, and then I have the lakebed. Lake Bistineau is a treasure trove of mystery, enhancement, wildlife and beauty. You don’t have to have an open lake to enjoy the moss-covered trees and the beauty that is the State of Louisiana.”

Donna Duvall, who lives on Green Park Road, said the quality of life on the lake has greatly changed because of the salvinia. Her property is in a small nook in the lake, and unless a north wind blows it back out into the channel, the giant salvinia is stuck.
She fondly remembered the fun activities from years ago.

“Ten years ago, there were boats and jet skis all over the lake, and we’d have a huge houseboat parade that would go to the different camps,” she said. “There were boats and fishermen. There was just so much going on. Now, it’s really bad, and most of the time we don’t have water. And when we do have water, there’s so much salvinia on the water, it’ll eat your motor up or you can’t get through it.”

LDWF biologist Manager Jeff Sibley said more than anything, they have learned what works to manage the salvinia.

“We have a far better understanding of how the plant interacts with the environment and the habitat that is Lake Bistineau,” he said. “We have tried a lot of different things that have shown promise in other locations, but when this plant is in an ideal habitat, it’s going to flourish. We have learned to take what nature gives us and what the lake will allow us to do and use those tools to our advantage through properly timed draw downs.”

LDWF, through a combination of draw downs and herbicide spraying, has been able to keep the salvinia down to about 2,000 acres of coverage. Lake Bistineau surface water area is about 17,000 acres, according to the LDWF management plan.
The gates will be closed Nov. 30, on the current draw down. Sibley said the lake has come down roughly 7 feet, and maximum is about 8 feet.

Delrie said the last 10 years has all been about perspective.

“My husband and I embrace what we have and take advantage of that,” she said. “We choose to embrace what’s happening to the lake and try to help each other. Everybody wants hope. That’s the key. Everybody wants hope for a better life on Bistineau, and hope is a good thing.”