Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Public Forum on the use of Herbicides on Lakes in Florida

On February 26, 2019, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (“FWC”) held the last of six public forums on the control of excessive vegetation and/or exotics on freshwater lakes in Florida. This series of meetings is during a “pause” in the use of herbicides throughout the state. The first portion of the meeting, the FWC discussed their four ways of controlling excessive and/or exotic vegetation. Chemical (use of selective herbicides), mechanical (removal of vegetation with equipment), biological (stocking lakes with sterile carp to eat invasive/exotic vegetation), and physical (controlled burns and drawdowns of water). They explained that each lake is unique in the way they control the vegetation.

The next portion of the meeting allowed residents up to three minutes of time to express their opinions on herbicide use. Duck hunters and guides were predominantly opposed to herbicide use as they felt wildlife was being adversely affected by herbicides in that there was no longer sufficient vegetation to support fish and/or ducks. Some of the lakes they mentioned were treated with helicopter and/or airplane spraying. This method of spraying is not used on Johns Lake; the FWC uses airboats, from which they spot treat vegetation.

Fishermen and pleasure boaters were for and against herbicides. Some felt fish were being adversely affected by herbicides, whereas others felt herbicides should be used in conjunction with mechanical and biological means to control vegetation and/or exotics so that navigation would not be impeded. Many felt hydrilla that limits boaters’ navigation would adversely affect the local economy (i.e., bait shops, Tavares Seaplane Base, fishing excursions and lakefront home values).

Most residents expressed concern over hydrilla affecting so many of the lakes in Florida. Ron Hart with Lake County Water Authority stated how easily hydrilla propagates and is transferred from lake to lake by boats. He felt treating hydrilla by whatever means necessary is imperative to the wellbeing of all waterbodies throughout the state.

There was discussion on the bad effects of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Round Up. FWC clarified that they do not use Round Up to treat lakes as it is not effective in treating hydrilla. The chemicals that are being used are all FDA approved and the people that apply them are licensed and trained to do so.

Many felt if the FWC waits too long to continue treatment, hydrilla will thrive and the cost and amount of chemicals used would go up considerably. It is more effective to spot treat more often than to treat an entire lake once or twice a year. The FWC always has to determine which lakes get the most, or soonest, treatment. There were concerns over FWC’s budget for aquatic plant control. Suggestions ranged from soliciting more money from the state, to adding a fee onto boat registrations. Several private companies expressed interest in partnering with FWC to explore new combinations of methods of plant control.