Plant invasion update at Elmendorf Lake

SAN ANTONIO – The invasive plant, water hyacinth, that took over Elmendorf Lake next to Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) is undergoing removal by San Antonio Parks and Recreation.

“San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department is collaborating with Transportation & Capital Improvements Storm Water Operations team and the San Antonio River Authority to utilize best practices for maintaining Elmendorf Lake,” said Connie Swann, marketing manager for San Antonio Parks and Recreation. “This includes manual removal of the water hyacinth.”

Swann states lake maintenance is part of normal operations, but the department is looking at working with an outside vendor to expedite the cleanup and said the cost of this has not yet been determined.

“The movement towards handling the situation has been slow. . . the streets around this side of town aren’t as nice as the north side,” said Kathy Garcia, OLLU president of the Sustainability for Students Club. “If it’s a budget problem, I think it’s worth spending a little extra to make sure animals and people in the area aren’t affected by this invasive plant.”

Swann claims San Antonio Parks and Recreation along with the San Antonio River Authority understand the invasive tendencies of the plant and are keeping an eye on other bodies of water around the city, and any signs of water hyacinth will be addressed with current removal methods.

“I believe it will be extremely difficult for Parks and Rec to fully remove this plant from our lake,” said Briana Salas Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Environmental Science at OLLU. “I believe the plants have been growing in the lake for long enough to have gone to seed, so even if they die over the winter there is a strong chance they will grow back next year.”

According to Lakerestoration.com, water hyacinth produces large quantities of seeds that are viable for up to 30 years.

“I know that this invasive plant is an issue that many other places have not been able to solve, but I hope that Parks and Rec can at least find a way to manage it and limit its negative effects on our lake ecosystem,” said Salas.

Swann states the process is ongoing and San Antonio Parks and Recreation has made progress and is evaluating the best delivery method to remove the plant utilizing a manual process based on the experiences with the removal process thus far.

“Currently, the plan is to remove the hyacinth mechanically and we are not at the point of abandoning this approach,” said Swann. “Should this not work, then we will evaluate alternatives.”

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