CAIRO — The Grady County Lake Authority is turning to a technological solution for an environmental problem at Tired Creek Lake.
The Lake Authority’s recommendation to begin seeking bids for an aerial drone to monitor the spread of three species of invasive grasses in Tired Creek Lake was approved unanimously by the Grady County Board of Commissioners last week.
Lake Authority chair Stephen Childs said if the influx of hydrilla, coontail and diadgets got too out of control it could eventually discourage anglers from using the lake as a fishing spot.
“The grass is a really big issue,” Childs said. “We’re fighting it as hard as we can fight it with the money that we’ve got.”
The county has been using special fish to eat the grasses, and while they work continuously, County Administrator Buddy Johnson said they are not as effective as the chemical diquat, which can be used to kill off the invasive species at a much faster rate. But spraying the diquat costs about $300 per acre, a price tag that can quickly become hefty at the 960-acre lake.
Lake Authority members believe a drone would be a more cost-efficient method of determining where to spray the chemical.
“If we only had to spray seven or eight acres because we can see it, that’s your cost savings,” said Lake Authority member Bob Ponder.
Lake director Mike Binion said a drone would also be quicker and easier to get up in the air than a helicopter.
Johnson said the county has the available funds to accept a bid for a drone that Childs has received, but will not reveal the amount of the bid to allow additional offers to be submitted. The commissioners’ vote to approve the Lake Authority’s recommendation was based on the condition that it be no more than Childs’ bid.
When not being used for the lake, Childs said the county could use the drone for other purposes, such as search-and-rescue operations. Johnson said drones similar to the ones Childs has researched are used by law enforcement to locate missing individuals.
“I think it has a huge value to the county,” the county administrator said.
Federal Aviation Administration certification training would be included with the bid Childs has received. The Lake Authority chair said Binion would serve as a suitable candidate to receive the training and operate the drone.