New weapon to be used in battle against salvinia

New weapon to be used in battle against salvinia
"Sweetwater" (Source: Nick Lawton, KSLA)
"Sweetwater" (Source: Nick Lawton, KSLA)
The current state of Lake Bistineau in Sibley under the spread of salvinia. (Source: Nick Lawton, KSLA)
The current state of Lake Bistineau in Sibley under the spread of salvinia. (Source: Nick Lawton, KSLA)

SIBLEY, LA (KSLA) - Salvinia is so thick on Lake Bistineau now that egrets walk across the water like it's dry land.

Not only do these grassy green weed-like plants threaten aquatic ecosystems, but it can spell doom for boats.

"It will get in these vents and it will clog the motor up," said Lake Bistineau resident Weldon Thomas. "If that stops working right there and it starts blowing steam, you're fixing to blow a motor up."

That's where the boat "Sweetwater" comes in.

"We're going to name it 'Sweetwater' because we're going to make the water sweet again, eventually," explained Thomas.

"Sweetwater" is a modified pontoon boat designed to suck the salvinia up and dispose it through a system of pipes and a pump built into the boat.

"This basket scoop, it'll scoop the salvinia as you're going along," Thomas explained. "It's going to push it through the channel. It's going to come out back there. Pump's going to suck it from here, then it will dump over into that basket."

Thomas said the salvinia in the basket will then be offloaded onto a barge which will then take the weeds to a private plot where it will dry and then be burned.

Thomas is the president of the nonprofit "Rebuilding Bistineau Strong." The nonprofit bought "Sweetwater" from Shreveport businessman Chris Fitzgerald, who designed the boat to clean the salvinia on the lake outside his own home before moving to Shreveport in the end.

Now, Thomas said the nonprofit is going to need a lot of help from the community modifying "Sweetwater" before it's ready to go.

"Mount the pump. We need new fixtures underneath there. We need a new hose. This hose is cracked," he said.

Thomas said the Shreveport motorcycle club "Hell on Wheels" donated the pump to them, but they need help installing it. He said the plumbing underneath the boat which will be sucking up the salvinia needs repairs as well as the instruments in front of the boat's steering wheel.

The nonprofit plans to hold an October fundraiser to help buy "Sweetwater's" parts.

Thomas said they want the boat to be another way to fight the spread of salvinia in addition to the lake drawdowns, the spraying and the weevils. They hope to have the boat up and running by spring 2017. Once it's closer to completion, Thomas said they will bring the boat before the Lake Bistineau Task Force.

Eventually, Thomas said they will take "Sweetwater" out to other residents' homes to clean the lake outside their home for free.
They need help to make the vessel seaworthy to begin taking their lake back from the spreading salvinia.

"We need about 10 or 20 boats out there just like this," Thomas said. "If everybody would get together, come out here and do their part on the lake, we can make a difference in this thing."

To fund the boat, the nonprofit will host the 2nd Annual Lake Bistineau News Rib Cook-Off and Get Together on Saturday, October 1 at noon under the Rally Pavilion inside Lake Bistineau State Park. Thomas said the event will feature live music, a live auction, raffle, among other events. All proceeds will go toward the state park and the nonprofit in their hopes to finish "Sweetwater."

Proceeds for the modified boat can also be donated now online in the form of an online raffle for an AR-15 rifle donated by Senator Ryan Gatti's law firm.

The winner of the raffle will be announced at the cook-off.

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