As perhaps the most prominent natural lake in Texas, Caddo Lake’s unique beauty has become overwhelmed by an equally rare intruder.
By 2017, the rapid spread of giant salvinia, a floating fern-like weed native to Brazil, had consumed about one-fifth of the lake’s 25,000-acre surface area. Although eradication efforts have since alleviated the problem, it remains a threat to the fragile ecosystem.
For Dallas restaurateur Shannon Wynne and others who frequent Caddo, which straddles the Texas-Louisiana border, the sudden invasion couldn’t be ignored.
“People aren’t paying enough attention to this,” said Wynne, who has owned property on the lake for more than 30 years. “Plant life is something that most people don’t recognize as being a problem, but the invasion is lifelong. These are not native species. It’s a big deal.”
In an effort so spread awareness, Wynne commissioned the short film There’s Something in the Water, an animated documentary that is showing several times through April 28 as part of the EarthX Film Festival.
The 8-minute film mixes live-action footage around the lake with animated interviews with everyone from biologists to fishing guides, explaining both the science behind the phenomenon and the ramifications for humans and animals alike.
“There are plans to eradicate it, but so far, Mother Nature has been the best preventative measure for it spreading,” Wynne said. “When we get hard freezes, it makes a big difference.”
Wynne is best known for mainstay eateries such as Flying Fish and Rodeo Goat, but the eccentric entrepreneur studied both film and biology at Trinity University in San Antonio during the late 1970s. So the project brings together two of his primary interests.
He was among the skeptics when botanists warned him of an impending giant salvinia infestation at Caddo more than a decade ago, but now he’s among the most outspoken advocates for suppressing its aggressive growth. Winter freezes have been helpful, and so has the introduction of weed-eating weevils.
“We thought it was the Abominable Snowman until about six years ago, and then realized it was the real thing,” Wynne said. “We thought it was much ado about nothing. We just hadn’t seen it manifest itself in any visible form.”
To make the film, Wynne and fellow producer Stephanie Casey enlisted the help of British animator Rory Waudby-Tolley, known as Rory WT, whose style meshed with the message.
“I needed a hook. It’s hard to make a film about an aquatic weed seem interesting.” Wynne said. “I liked his style. It wasn’t too primitive, yet it was funny and captured the documentary part that was important to me.”
There’s Something in the Water won an award at the recent Thin Line Fest in Denton, and also screened at the Dallas International Film Festival. It will expand to other festivals around the world in the coming months.