Pesticides and Herbicides and water –your dock, near the water or for water plants

Pesticides and Herbicides and water –your dock, near the water or for water plants

If it feels like the spooky season has started early on your dock or boat house due to the presence of spiders, you may want to get rid of those 8-legged tiny beasts. If a spider enters your house, you might swat it or squash it with a shoe, but how do you remove them in larger quantities - especially over water?

Living lakeside or along waterways like the Brazos River has its perks, but it can also have pests. Those pests might come in bug and insect form, or they might come in the form of unwanted plant growth. 

When it comes to spraying for unwanted insects, arachnids or unwanted vegetation, you need to remember that the water below your dock may one day flow from your faucets.

Would you want pesticides or herbicides mixed in with your drinking water?  

Before you make any decisions on what tactics to take in removing the unwanted item, do some research. Make sure whatever you're looking into using is permittable with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) since they are the agency responsible for managing fish and wildlife resources in the state. 

According to TPWD, not all vegetation is "nuisance" vegetation; however, aquatic plants can sometimes get out of control. 

Overabundant vegetation can limit recreational access, restrict flow rates in canals and rivers, interfere with industrial water uses, and harm fish and wildlife. Problems are most likely to arise when exotic plant species are involved. 

In recent decades, species such as hydrilla, water hyacinth, and giant salvinia have invaded many Texas waterways. These introduced plants often grow rapidly, displacing more beneficial native species. And, they can travel from one watershed or body of water to another by way of boats and non-motorized watercraft, boat trailers, vehicles, and other equipment used in the water.

Since the elimination of all aquatic vegetation isn't practical, TPWD focuses on plants that directly affect the health and recreational use of those resources.

What can I do with unwanted vegetation around my dock?

Because most surface water in the state (lakes and rivers) is used for drinking water purposes, TPWD requires that a permit be obtained and a Treatment Proposal approved before any type of herbicide may be used near water supply.  

Under the  State Aquatic Vegetation Plan, organizations and individuals wishing to conduct vegetation management activities in public water must first submit a Treatment Proposal for review by TPWD and local controlling entities. However, if lakefront landowners would like to completely remove floating aquatic plants from around their docks/shorelines, they may do so without a Treatment Proposal as long as the plants are disposed of according to state standards.  

Physical removal of exotic (non-native) aquatic plants designated as harmful or potentially harmful species requires an Aquatic Vegetation Removal Permit for Exotic Species, except for removal by lakefront landowners/managers or their agents with an approved Treatment Proposal, provided the plants can be securely black bagged or fully dried or composted before transport for disposal. 

If the property in question is located on a BRA reservoir, BRA Lake Regulations require that written permission be obtained from the BRA before application of any pesticide or chemical over, on or in BRA Lakes. 

Not only must you notify the BRA before anything can be done, but you also need to submit a Treatment Proposal to TPWD at least 14 days in advance. That permit can be found here.

Both the Improvement Permit and written authorization for chemical treatment can be obtained by contacting the appropriate Lake Office.  Additionally, depending on the area to be treated and the type of pesticide to be used, they may also require authorization from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) under the Pesticides General Permit requirements.

Anyone who is not a lakefront landowner/manager or their agent, who is removing these plants for hire or using a mechanical harvester, or for landowners who cannot bag or fully dry the plants before transport for disposal must always obtain a permit. The permit is at no cost for public waters. The application can be found here.

When aquatic nuisance vegetation appears in a private lake or pond, control is up to the landowner. Resources to assist in determining the best treatment method can be found here

TPWD has programs that proactively treat lakes and rivers for certain types of plants. So, it's possible that your area may already be treated like portions of Lake Limestone were recently treated for water hyacinth. 

For full details and necessary permits from TPWD, visit here

Why can't I just spray what I want to spray when I want to spray it?

Being cautious about the use of pesticides and herbicides around lakes is important due to the potential harmful impacts they can have on aquatic ecosystems, human health, and the environment.

Here are some reasons why caution is necessary:

1.    Water Contamination: Pesticides and herbicides can easily run off from treated areas into nearby water bodies, including lakes. This runoff can lead to water contamination, affecting water quality and potentially harming aquatic life.
2.    Aquatic Ecosystem Disruption: Pesticides and herbicides can have unintended consequences on aquatic ecosystems. They may harm not only target pests and weeds but also non-target organisms like fish, amphibians, insects, and plankton. These chemicals can disrupt the food chain and overall ecosystem balance.
3.    Biodiversity Loss: The use of pesticides and herbicides can lead to a decline in biodiversity. Certain species may be more sensitive to these chemicals, and their loss can have cascading effects throughout the ecosystem.
4.    Algae Blooms: Some herbicides and nutrients from pesticides can promote excessive algal growth in lakes, leading to harmful algal blooms. These blooms can deplete oxygen levels in the water, creating "dead zones" where aquatic life cannot survive.
5.    Drinking Water Concerns: If a lake is used as a source of drinking water, the contamination of the lake with pesticides and herbicides can pose a direct risk to human health.
6.    Residue Accumulation: Pesticide and herbicide residues can accumulate in sediments at the bottom of the lake over time. This can have long-term effects on the ecosystem as well as potential consequences if these sediments are disturbed, and the chemicals are released back into the water.
7.    Resistance Development: Overuse of pesticides and herbicides can lead to the development of resistance in target pests and weeds. This can result in the need for even stronger chemicals in the future, exacerbating the cycle of chemical dependence.
8.    Regulatory Concerns: Many pesticides and herbicides are subject to regulatory guidelines to protect the environment and human health. Improper use or exceeding recommended application rates can lead to legal and regulatory issues.
9.    Long-Term Effects: The full extent of the long-term ecological and health effects of some pesticides and herbicides may not be fully understood. Thus, exercising caution and adopting a precautionary approach is prudent.

To mitigate these risks, it's important to follow the guidelines in place by TPWD, TCEQ and the BRA. In addition, there are alternative methods of pest and weed control that are less harmful to the environment.

Non-toxic methods to get rid of bugs.

Getting rid of bugs on your boat dock without causing harm to the environment can be achieved through a combination of preventive measures, natural solutions, and environmentally friendly practices. Here are some steps you can take:

1.    Regular Cleaning: Keep your boat dock clean and free of debris. This will help eliminate hiding places and breeding sites for insects.
2.    Remove Standing Water: Empty any containers that collect water, as stagnant water can attract mosquitoes and other pests. Ensure proper drainage to prevent water from pooling.
3.    Natural Predators: Encourage natural predators like birds, bats, and beneficial insects (e.g., ladybugs, lacewings) that feed on pests. You can create habitats that attract these predators near your boat dock.
4.    Screening: If possible, install screens or netting to prevent insects from entering covered areas on your boat dock.
5.    Seal Cracks and Openings: Seal any cracks, gaps, or openings in structures that insects might use as entry points.
6.    Essential Oils: Some essential oils, like citronella, eucalyptus, and lavender, have insect-repelling properties. You can use these oils in diffusers or spray solutions to deter bugs.
7.    Vinegar: A mixture of water and white vinegar can help repel certain insects like ants and flies. Spray this solution in problem areas.
8.    DIY Traps: Create simple traps using items like sugar water or apple cider vinegar to attract and trap pests like fruit flies and gnats.
9.    Physical Barriers: Use physical barriers like fine mesh netting or row covers to protect plants and prevent insects from accessing certain areas.
10.    Plant Selection: Choose plants that are naturally resistant to pests. For example, some aromatic herbs like rosemary, mint, and basil can help repel insects.
11.    Beneficial Plants: Plant flowers that attract beneficial insects, such as marigolds, sunflowers, and alyssum. These insects can help control pest populations.
12.    Soap Spray: A mild soap and water solution can be used to spray on plants to deter and control insects.
13.    Manual Removal: Regularly inspect your boat dock and manually remove any visible pests. This can include picking off caterpillars, removing webs, or gently brushing away insects.

Remember that completely eliminating all insects might not be achievable or desirable, as insects play important roles in ecosystems. The goal is to manage pest populations to a tolerable level while minimizing harm to the environment.

Being cautious about the use of pesticides and herbicides around lakes and rivers is essential due to the potential harmful impacts they can have on aquatic ecosystems, human health, and the environment.