TVA, other agencies tackle eelgrass lake invasion in Guntersville

WAFF's Megan Plotka reporting
Published: Aug. 30, 2023 at 11:48 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 30, 2023 at 1:19 PM CDT

LANGSTON, Ala. (WAFF) - Several families in Marshall County are stuck on the dock especially the homes on Lakeshore Drive in Lancaster. The eelgrass is making it impossible to get their boats and jetskis in the water safely.

Holley Caldwell lives on an extension of Guntersville Lake and he’s shocked to see the amount of eelgrass in the water.

“We’ve never had this problem before,” says Caldwell. “I just don’t understand why there’s such an abundance of it now when in the past it hasn’t been here.”

Stephen Turner with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) believes the eelgrass likely came out of the aquarium industry in Florida.

While it meshes with the ecosystem in Florida, it clashes with Guntersville Lake.

“They have a lot of it in Florida but in Florida, it stays warm all winter so the other species compete with it year-round,” says Turner. “Here all our other species go away in the wintertime and it stays it really comes on strong in the spring that’s what makes it have a strong hold on Guntersville.”

The TVA treats the public parts of the lake with a herbicide to kill off the plant. Then the eelgrass breaks up and floats to the top of the lake, forming mats that can block boats.

The TVA uses a large harvester to remove the mat.

“Last year we picked up 120,000 cubic yards,” says Turner. “We already picked up 150,000 cubic yards this year. We also have a harvester at the dam keeping the intakes clear there so that’s more trying to keep the issue from becoming worse.”

WAFF's Megan Plotka reporting

The T-V-A only treats public parts of the lake, the private areas are now in the hands of My Lakes Guntersville led by Rick Roden.

The organization received $1.2 million in federal dollars to treat and harvest Guntersville Lake.

“My Lake Guntersville is outside of TVA,” says Roden. “The only reason we’re doing it is to protect the lake. That’s all we want to do is protect this lake.”

They already treated Caldwell’s neighborhood. Roden says they expect to bring a harvester out to his Lakeshore Dr.

It’s too little too late for Caldwell.

He and nine of his neighbors pooled together approximately $10,000 to hire a contractor so they could remove the eelgrass from the water.

He said he didn’t know about the services from My Lake Guntersville.

“We all had a meeting and realized we couldn’t get our boats out,” said Caldwell. “It would take a harvester like we have here today to clean the slew out so we could use the river. We all got together and decided to hire this professional to clean the trash out.”

The contractor has already taken four days to clear out the area. He is expecting to take another two days to finish the job

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