If zebra mussels, hydrilla, giant salvinia, kudzu, emerald ash borer, Burmese python, Asian carp, and saltcedar are on the areas that you are responsible for managing, you may have a non-native species on your project. Project managers now face a number of questions to include: Are these plants and/or animals native or non-native to my area? Could this new species be invasive? If invasive, how did it get here? Where can information be found on the species? And what help is there to control this species? Meanwhile, as a project manager, you know you can’t wait and ignore the problem because of the damage it may cause.
“These are common questions and concerns when trying to identify, control, and take steps to properly manage invasive species,” said Timothy Toplisek, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Aquatic Plant Control program manager. “These are valid concerns because invasive species are a large problem that continues to escalate throughout the world.”
Globally, there are $1.4 trillion of annual impacts and expenditures attributed to invasive species. In the United States that annual number is $138 billion. The USACE estimates it spends approximately $120 million annually to correct invasive damages and to control problem species. Invasive species can have an impact on every USACE mission to include the ability to carry out the planning and construction of new facilities, and the protection of habitat associated with endangered species and mitigation actions.
“The time and expenditures associated with the control of invasives diverts funding and manpower needed to carry out the missions and limits our ability to provide quality services to the nation,” said Toplisek. “In this time of decreasing budgets and resources, every action that can be taken to rapidly identify, treat, and manage newly established invasive [species] at a Corps project saves funding and other resources intended to carry out and support project missions.” USACE officials add that if these problems are ignored and invasive species are allowed to proliferate, it could eventually shut down project missions and require the diversion of large sums of project funds and manpower to control the invasive species.
The River and Harbor Act of 1958 gives USACE the authority to develop environmentally friendly and cost-efficient technologies for the control of invasive aquatic plant species. As the only federal agency with this authority, USACE established an Aquatic Plant Control Research and Development Program as part of the USACE Engineering Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Miss. This program provides project personnel with Web-based informational programs on the identification, characteristics, treatment options, and favorable conditions for invasives. Specific information systems have also been developed to include the Aquatic Plant Information System; the Zebra Mussel Information System; and the Plant Management Information System. Each of these systems has mobile download capabilities, so they can be easily applied in the field. In additional to these informational systems, hundreds of scientific reports and informational papers concerning aquatic invasive species are available to project personnel.
If project personnel should need additional support, the Water Operations Technical Support Program, also at the Engineering Research and Development Center, is available to assist. This program provides the opportunity for an aquatic plant control specialist to make a short visit to a project (three to five days) to assess the aquatic invasive problem. After the visit, a brief report assessing the problem, concerning severity, recommendation methods on how to best treat the problem, (chemical, biological, mechanical), and other factors that contribute to the problem such as siltation and/or nutrient loading will be addressed. In addition, specialists can conduct small demonstration projects on USACE-managed waters to field test the capabilities of newly emerging aquatic plant control technologies. These services can also be applied to other invasive aquatic species that are in accordance with the USACE Aquatic Nuisance Species Research Program that was created in 1991 in response to a need for efficient control technologies focusing on zebra mussels.