Homeowners along TN River concerned about changes in aquatic vegetation management

Aquatic Vegetation Meeting (image: WTVC)

Homeowners along the Tennessee River might be limited in how much they can clean the water near their properties.

Bliss Zechman explains why people are upset by the plan and why a Tennessee Senator wants something done.

Dozens of waterfront homeowners and area fishermen gathered at Cottonport Marina on Thursday to speak with Senator Mike Bell about a piece of potential legislation that would change the way aquatic vegetation is managed.

Right now, Daniel Hair has peace of mind when his grandson enjoys a summer swim at his home which rests on the Tennessee River

"He loves swimming in the water. I allow him to do it now because it’s safe," said Hair.

He's worried new plans to manage aquatic vegetation could make it unsafe to swim and trigger several other problems.

"You're still going to have the smell. You're still going to have the mosquitoes. You're still going to have the danger of a three-year-old falling in the water and drowning because he can't get out of it," said Hair.

In Thursday night's meeting, Senator Mike Bell said his plan would not limit homeowners like Hair from clearing unwanted aquatic plants. It would set a boundary for how far into the water property owners can clean the vegetation. They won't have free reign to clean it out anywhere.

"This river doesn't belong to any one individual citizen. It belongs to the people of the state and actually the people of the US," said Sen. Bell.

Senator Bell says both the needs of homeowners and others who use the lake, like fishermen, should be considered.

Vegetation allows fish to thrive and some anglers are concerned the herbicide based removal process could be unsafe.

"Anytime chemicals are applied to anything it can't be good. I would rather them see other methods like aquatic harvesting," said Wesley Strader, a professional fisherman.

Although, those who remove the vegetation swear by the chemical’s safety.

"The science of what we're doing is really not up for debate anymore," said Troy Goldsby, Vice President of Aqua Services Inc.

Goldsby said each of the six herbicides his company uses to clear unwanted vegetation in the Tennessee River has undergone a thorough vetting process. According to Goldsby, the Environmental Protection Agency mandates aquatic herbicides go through a 10-year, multi-million dollar evaluation study.

Locals, like Hair, also trust what’s going in their water.

"I wouldn't think twice about getting in it right after they sprayed," said Hair.

Senator Bell said he’ll consider any resident’s concerns to find the best solution. The senator from Riceville plans to propose new aquatic management legislation in the upcoming session.

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