LAKELAND —  Personnel at Banks Lake National Wildlife Refuge are proposing a partial drawdown of Banks Lake this winter.

The drawdown intends to control emergent aquatic vegetation and invasive water hyacinth along the lake edge, according to officials. 

A drawdown was conducted in the lake last winter and, according to National Wildlife Refuge officials, was successful in reducing the submerged vegetation throughout the lake, allowing for improved boating access for fishing and other outdoor recreation activities. 

This drawdown is being proposed due to an "occurrence of emergent vegetation on the immediate water edge," according to release. 

The refuge is proposing a partial drawdown of 3-4 feet, to just below the vegetation along the north edge of the lake. 

“It is anticipated that a drawdown to this level should not impact visitor use of the boat launch to access the lake," Refuge Manager Michael Lusk said. “We do ask that all individuals boating and fishing in the lake during this time use extreme caution around stumps and logs and help us maintain the fishery by voluntarily using catch and release tactics while the water is down.”

The release explained that conducting drawdowns of Banks Lake was determined to be the most effective way to control aquatic vegetation after consultation with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. 

Drawing down the water levels during the winter months exposes the root system of aquatic plants and after several hard freezes will limit the regrowth of these aquatic plant species, according to officials. 

The refuge will begin drawing down the water levels in mid-November and reach the lowest water level by mid-December. The water levels will be maintained at the lowest level, approximately 3-4 feet down from full pool, through January which should bring freezing temperatures to the area. During that time, the refuge will be actively working to remove water hyacinth as well as monitoring the overall lake conditions, according to release. 

In February, the refuge is anticipating beginning the process of allowing the lake to return to normal water levels with rainfall.

Questions or comments can be directed to Supervisory Refuge Ranger Susan Heisey, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge at (912) 496-7366 ext. 233 or via email at susan_heisey@fws.gov.

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