Augusta, Georgia – The Savannah River is Augusta’s main source of water, but it’s also the home of invasive plants. It’s a growing problem for the city and all who use the river.
With the Iron Man Competition coming up in September and many people getting in those last river activities before the fall the weed overgrowth does not go unnoticed. Especially by swimmers and boaters, but this year the problem was handled a little differently.
“Well the city and the port authority chose to do nothing this year,” said Savannah Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus.
For the last two years, the City of Augusta has sprayed the weeds in the river with copper sulfate — spending more than 15 thousand dollars for each treatment — to try and stop the growth of invasive plants.
“Well the problem is that this stuff has to sit on top of the plants to actually do any good. Well it’s a river system so there’s always flow,” Bonitatibus told News Channel 6.
But Bonitatibus says the 5th Street Marina in Downtown Augusta has the worst case of the invasive plants.
“That’s where some of the weeds are the most because it’s so shallow. What also happens is that when these weeds grow and it rains a lot of dirt comes down the river. Once it hits the weeds it slows down and that dirt drops out and it creates these bigger and bigger sandbars,” said Bonitatibus.
But the weed overgrowth is a reoccurring problem.
“The weeds get closer to the sunlight and they grow more. So it’s this cyclical process so we are actually getting a shallower downtown,” Bonitatibus said.
Savannah Riverkeeper says traditionally the state of Georgia pays the cost of maintaining the weeds.
“How do we move forward with a plan to actually deal with these weeds in a way that bears that cost by both states,” Bonitatibus said.
Although, Bonitatibus says it was a choice to do nothing to control the overgrowth this year, this is a problem that people need to recognize.
“Most of the weeds that grow in the river are invasive species and they have been brought in a number of different ways. It could have been people who don’t wash their boats when they take them out of one water way and put them into another. People just not understanding that they need to clean these boats before they put them into our different water systems,” Bonitatibus told News Channel 6.
Savannah Riverkeeper says the weed in the river can’t grow without nutrients. The Utilities Department has been working to contain the sewage runoff to prevent further growth, but the Storm Water Fee could prevent this problem.