Hydrilla -- the aquatic version of kudzu -- is back and choking Lake Bastrop near Austin. Several years ago, then-governor George W. Bush boarded a hydrilla harvester, steered it across the water and declared victory over the weed.

Last year, when President Bush landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared the end of major combat in Iraq, John Wedig was taken back to 1998.

"I had flashbacks to Lake Bastrop and the whole photo op thing, and I thought about all the work that was done behind the scenes to make that happen," said Wedig, a senior aquatic scientist with the Lower Colorado River Authority. "We went from science to political science in a blink of an eye."

Back then, the hydrilla was multiplying exponentially, raising the pH of the lake and crowding out recreational boaters and skiers.

The LCRA, which built Lake Bastrop in 1964, decided to use an aquatic herbicide. But after complaints from bass fishermen, Bush stopped the herbicide and got the Tennessee Valley Authority to lend a harvester for a demonstration and photo op. The LCRA then bought its own machine. The hydrilla did not abound in subsequent summers.

But now it's back, growing into hundreds of acres and up to the lake surface. The LCRA uses its harvester, which only eats an acre or two of hydrilla daily. Most boaters, skiers and wakeboarders are staying away, but not the bass fishermen. "The fringes and shoreline area is filled up with hydrilla, and that's where they are," Wedig said.

-- Sylvia Moreno

A mechanical harvester is used to cut back hydrilla on Lake Bastrop near Austin.