Commissioners want to hear from landowners before Salvinia funding

Giant Salvinia infestation at the Richardson Pond last summer.

By DEUCE NIVEN

tribdeuce@tabor-loris.com

     Concerns over spending public funds on private property prompted Columbus County Commissioners Tuesday to put off funding to end an infestation of Giant Salvinia on two Gapway area ponds.

     First, the board said they want to hear from owners of land adjacent to the Richardson and Buffkin ponds, confirmed last summer by officials with the state’s Division of Water Resources, Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

     Columbus County Cooperative Extension Director Dalton Dockery, PhD brought samples of the “aggressive noxious aquatic weed” to commissioners, and encouraged them to visit the Richardson pond to get a first-hand look.

     “It is completely covered, you can’t see the water,” Dockery said of the water.

     DEQ will lead the eradication effort, a multi-year project that includes two years of active spraying to kill the weed, another two years of monitoring.

     Because the ponds have many tight spaces, trees, and the weed infestation is so dense, Dockery said small boats, even canoes will be needed to get chemicals to the plants and kill them, an expensive process that will cost about $120,000 per year for the first two years.

     State funding is available for half of the cost, with the county asked to pay the other half, $60,000 per year for two years. Monitoring costs for the third and fourth year would total about $8,000.

     Dockery said landowners have made no commitment to help pay those costs after Commissioner Buddy Byrd asked. If public funds improve the private ponds, Byrd asked if they would then be open to the public.

     Dockery said he would notify those landowners on the board’s request that they attend their Feb. 2 meeting. Logistics on how to handle the crowd without violating COVID-19 indoor gathering rules will be worked out, the board said, and may require that speakers be allowed into the meeting just a few at a time.

     Look for more on Tuesday’s county board meeting in Wednesday’s Tabor-Loris Tribune in print and online.