Louisiana House Natural Resources Committee members are bugged by some plant problems: too much of one, and the die-off of another. The first needs more bugs to eat it; the second needs a way to kill the bugs causing it.
First, there’s the continued problem with giant salvinia, an aquatic fern that’s clogging waterways statewide.
“Do you see anything on the horizon that maybe we could hang our hat on?” asked Minden Representative Gene Reynolds.
Wildlife and Fisheries Assistant Secretary Patrick Banks replied, “The cold-tolerant weevil, I think, holds a lot of promise.”
Oil City Representative Jim Morris wants more than “promise.”
“We’ve been dealing with this since I’ve been here – 10 years – and why is it taking so long for this cold water beetle? What’s going on there?”
It takes breeding millions of the weevils before they can chomp the salvinia away.
Meanwhile, another insect is killing stands of cane along the coast.
“Essentially, this is an insect from Asia that drills into that Roseau cane, sucks the sap out of it and kills the plant,” explains Todd Baker, Wildlife and Fisheries coastal program director.
Acres of the marsh-anchoring vegetation are dying off, changing marshland to open water in a matter of months.
Natural Resource Committee Chairman Stuart Bishop wants answers now.
“Please explain to me: How much is it going to cost? Where’s the money coming from? What is the hold up?”
“We've been working with Congress and our U.S. senators. We have $400,000 that’s currently in the appropriations bill,” Baker says. “In the meantime, the AgCenter has been funding this to the tune of about $250,000. And another $151,000 will hopefully be coming from the parishes.”
But that didn't soothe Bishop.
“How do we get past the term ‘hopefully?’ We have an issue, and we have to figure out a solution to it!” the Lafayette-area state representative insists. “Because otherwise, we’re just going to 'hopefully' wonder where our coast has gone ten years from now."