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Weeds clogging Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta waters

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Posted: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 12:00 am

State and federal officials are trying to get a jumpstart this year on an annual herbicide spraying program to combat an invasive plant that has clogged Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta waterways and harbors in the summer.

The herbicide program to control water hyacinth began in September last year, three months after it normally starts, the Sacramento Bee reported on Sunday. By then, the floating plant with large, shiny leaves and purple flowers had exploded in the summer heat.

It is only now beginning to die off in the cold and frost of the last few weeks.

"I've lived here my whole life. It's the worst year we've ever seen," said Kim Korth, 62, co-owner of Korth's Pirate's Lair Marina near Isleton.

When left unchecked, the floating water hyacinth forms a solid carpet across the water surface, clogging propellers, rudders and water intakes.

At Tower Park Marina in Lodi, some boat slips had to be abandoned to water hyacinth and crews spent weeks pulling it from the water so boats could pass, said Sheila Bookwalter, a reservation clerk at the marina.

"It looks like a meadow, and it's still basically covered," she said.

The plant was brought to America from the Amazon in the 1880s as an ornamental plant and it reached the Delta in the 1940s.

Government agencies and the boating industry have been battling it ever since, mainly with herbicides.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and state Department of Boating and Waterways did not apply for a new permit to spray herbicide against the water hyacinth in 2012 in time for a June start, said Kim Turner, assistant field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Federal fishery agencies review the program to make sure herbicides do not harm threatened fish species.

Additional review was also needed because of status of the threatened Delta smelt has worsened.

Turner said it doesn't appear as if there will be any "hang-ups" with permitting this year.

The spraying is funded largely by taxes and boater fees.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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