I grew up less than an hour away from the Delta and never knew it existed. How could I have missed a thousand miles of sloughs teeming with flora and fauna? The oversight is amended this year as I explore the Delta in my gunkholer sloop. What I’ve seen most, is water hyacinth.
Hyacinth are the rigid waxy green tubes with broad leaves and delicate purple flowers floating tall on the water. It is a beautiful plant, and the scourge of the Delta.
It doubles in size every two weeks and like any successful organism, doesn’t know when to stop. One plant becomes a carpet dense enough to walk on. The light and oxygen block kills fish and turtles, and prevents boat traffic.
Some marinas mow the plant and shoo it downstream, ultimately to Stockton, where it multiplies like Fantasia Mops. The weed scientists call that physical control.
In May 2010 the USDA released a bug that eats Hyacinth, but won’t know for years if new problems are created by this non-indigenous species.
Don’t forget chemical warfare. Fishing boats spray withering poison turning green subdividing flowering carpet, into wilted brown smelly carpet.
We are wasting a very valuable resource.
Water hyacinth is 95 percent water and loaded with nitrogen, has been successfully used as fertilizer, and for water purification. Can be made into biogas, paper, and rope. The casket of the recently deceased Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai was woven out of rope made from water hyacinth.
Solution. The Water Hyacinth Festival. A wild west style round-up akin to cattle drives and log rolling. Cigarette boats and pleasure yachts compete to drag cut hyacinth in mile-long relays to conveyor belts that load flatbed trucks, and distribute to fields and handworkers. Prizes awarded for most ingenious techniques, best decorated boats, most trucks filled. The Water Hyacinth Festival could be the cultural tourism spectacle that puts the Delta on the map as the community that partied rather than poisoned.
But that’s only if people know about the opportunity waiting in their own back yard.
With a Perspective, I’m Cynthia Shelton.