Invasive plant spreads to Interior Alaska beyond Fairbanks

Elodea is a leafy, long-stemmed plant, known to crowd out native species of freshwater flora.

FAIRBANKS — An invasive plant species previously thought to only have invaded Interior waterways around Fairbanks has been spotted north of Nenana.

Staff from federal agencies have confirmed that elodea has been found in Totchaket Slough, a small side stream of the Tanana River about 12 miles from Nenana, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Elodea is a leafy, long-stemmed plant, known to crowd out native species of freshwater flora.

“Just a fragment from somewhere can spread and start somewhere else,” District Coordinator Joni Scharfenberg said. “We do not know how it got into Totchaket Slough. There’s a lot of speculation, but we don’t know for sure.”

The new outbreak covers more than 95 percent of the surface of the water in a half-mile section of Totchaket Slough, according to Aditi Shenoy, the Soil and Water Conservation District’s invasive weeds specialist.

Elodea was found in Lake Hood last month, causing officials to worry that departing aircraft could bring the weed to new sites. The weed has been previously spotted in Chena Slough, Chena Lake and in a small part of the Chena River in west Fairbanks.

A state-led committee plans to poison the elodea previously found in Chena Slough with an herbicide as early as 2016, but the group is still gathering funding for the project.

Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District officials are reminding boaters to rinse, drain and dry boats and other gear before putting them in new bodies of water to help prevent the spread of the plant.


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