Risk, doubt, and the biological control of southern waters.
The late twentieth-century American South hosted a thriving lakefront development industry. The arrival of the invasive aquatic plant hydrilla in reservoirs across the region during the 1970s threatened this Sunbelt prosperity. Unwilling to watch their investments become choked by a mat of floating vegetation, Texas developers pushed the state to introduce the white amur, an exotic and voracious Manchurian fish to control hydrilla. The resulting hearings and scientific studies, however, did as much to perpetuate uncertainty as to provide consensus. This failure of expertise opened space for developers to convince the legislature to back their interests. Doubt became the means by which they justified the use of biological control to protect their investments. Drawing on the work of Ulrich Beck and Rachel Carson, this account of hydrilla and the white amur reveals the pervasiveness of risk, the flexibility of biological control, and the power of development imperatives in the state-level management of a globalized reservoir.