A fourth invasive plant known as Crested Floating Heart has been identified in Lake Conroe

Crested Floating Heart

Reservoir owners and operators in Southeast Texas are all familiar with the concept of non-native, or invasive, aquatic vegetation growing in their waters and the various management techniques available to help control their existence. Through close partnerships with local, state, and federal organizations, especially the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), the Lake Conroe Division of the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) manages invasive aquatic plants, zebra mussels, and other invasive species on the Lake Conroe Reservoir. In addition, the Division has developed a program to establish and maintain native vegetation across the reservoir and sustain a suitable fisheries habitat.

Lake Conroe invasive species efforts have historically targeted three primary species of plants: Hydrilla, Water Hyacinth, and Giant Salvinia. Hydrilla is a submerged and rooted plant that generally grows in shallow water. Water Hyacinth is a floating invasive species with large purple flowers that bloom in the summer. Giant Salvinia also floats freely on the surface of the water and resembles a fern. Each one of these plants presents its own unique challenges, but all three can cause serious environmental, as well as economic havoc on an aquatic environment. Countless hours have been spent to keep these three plants under control on Lake Conroe.

Water Hyacinth

Water Hyacinth is a floating invasive species with large purple flowers that bloom in the summer.

(Source: Phil Petunyia)

Hydrilla

Hydrilla is a submerged and rooted plant that generally grows in shallow water.

(Photo Source: Bugwood.org)

Giant Salvinia

Giant Salvinia also floats freely on the surface of the water and resembles a fern.

(Photo Source: texasfarmbureau.org)

There are numerous ways in which invasive plants can get introduced into a body of water. The most common way for this to happen is when a boat that was not properly cleaned, drained, and dried travels from an infested lake to a non-infested lake. Just like the zebra mussel, plants are simply transported via boat and trailer from one lake to the other.

Another common way in which non-native plants are introduced to a lake is through the aquarium or water garden industries. Unfortunately, many invasive species are actually quite beautiful to look at and, though illegal to possess, are relatively easy to purchase. Finding plants to stock these outdoor features is often as easy as a few clicks on the internet. There are many ways that garden plants can end up in a local body of water. Often it’s through disposal, but they can also be carried by animals such as birds and reptiles or rising waters during a storm.

Crested Floating Heart

Recently, a fourth invasive plant known as Crested Floating Heart has been identified in Lake Conroe. This is a rooted plant with heart-shaped leaves that float on the water’s surface. The plant was first identified on Lake Conroe in the headwaters of Little Lake Creek.

Little Lake Creek

In the aquatic plant management world, the ability to positively identify plants is the single most important skill a manager can have.  One must be able to distinguish between native plants and non-native plants at any time of season.

Crested Floating Heart

Crested Floating Heart is a rooted plant with heart-shaped leaves that float on the water’s surface.

One of the key indicators that allows aquatic plant managers to positively identify Crested Floating Heart is the distinct ridge that runs down the middle of its leaf petals.

(Photo Source: www.texasinvasives.org)

Banana Lily

Banana Lily, a plant native to the Southeast United States, can easily be mistaken for Crested Floating Heart.

Banana lily is a perennial plant with leaves that arise from “banana-shaped” rhizomes on the long slender petioles

(Photo Source: plantsrescue.com)

In the case of Crested Floating Heart, this can prove to be a challenge as many native plants resemble Crested Floating Heart.  In particular, Banana Lily, a plant native to the Southeast United States, can easily be mistaken for Crested Floating Heart.  One of the key indicators that allows aquatic plant managers to positively identify Crested Floating Heart is the distinct ridge that runs down the middle of its leaf petals.

Fortunately, this plant has been positively identified and treatment has already started.  The plant was identified on October 30, 2018, and technicians from the TPWD were on Lake Conroe on November 2, 2018, making the initial treatment applications.  The treatment of choice is a relatively new herbicide that is safe for the environment and poses no threat to public safety, yet is highly effective on this invasive plant.  Only specially-trained applicators are permited to purchase and apply this new product.  Technicians with SJRA, in addition to local area contractors, are scheduling to be trained on this product, so that they too can join in the fight.

Erradicating an invasive plant like Crested Floating Heart is usually not possible on a body of water as large as Lake Conroe, but that is the goal of our efforts.  What is more likely is that this plant will become a regular part of the on-going aquatic plant maintenance program for Lake Conroe.

Finally, a special warning to boaters.  One of several ways that this plant can reproduce is through fragmentation.  This means that if a piece of the plant is broken off by a boat propeller or some other means, it can float away and reestablish as an entirely new plant.  For this reason, boaters and recreational enthusists on Lake Conroe should take special precaution not to damage plants if they see them.   To learn more about this plant please visit:

https://www.texasinvasives.org/plant_database/detail.php?symbol=NYCR

LCA President’s Update as of November 17, 2018

LCA President’s Update as of November 17, 2018

The lake goes down. The lake goes up. And so has been the story of Lake Conroe since our last LCA President’s Update dated July 29, 2018 when the lake level was 200.52 msl (mean sea level). The San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) began releasing water from Lake Conroe as part of its “seasonal adjustment strategy” on August 1 when they reported a lake level of 200.61. By August 31, SJRA reported its “temporary flood mitigation goal” of 199.0 had been reached and releases from Lake Conroe were to end (subject to future rains). So, of course, it began to rain; so much so that over 11 inches of water were released between September 1 and 13 to again reduce the lake level to 199.0. Gradual rains initiated lake level increases in early October, and then we were inundated with a storm averaging 3.96 inches of rainfall across the watershed such that by October 17 Lake Conroe had risen 1.26 feet and exceeded the normal pool elevation of 201.0 once again. Considerable rain occurred in the northern portion of our watershed and SJRA reported they “wouldn’t be surprised to see runoff continue for a week or more” and “when the ground is fully saturated, we’ve seen 3 or 4 inches of rain result in 15 to 20 inches of lake level rise. It’s amazing how much difference soil saturation makes”. And so we have lived with seemingly endless days of rain throughout October and early November where Lake Conroe has exceeded 201.0 for 32 of the past 48 days. Today’s lake level is reported to be 201.07.

Many of our LCA Members have expressed their dissatisfaction with SJRA’s “seasonal adjustment program” and the lowering of Lake Conroe by 2 feet. In response, we communicated with 55 POA’s on Lake Conroe and numerous businesses to request documentation of difficulties experienced as a direct result of lowering the lake level to 199.0. Many thanks to those of you who submitted responses. We have built a file with the intention of presenting your concerns to the SJRA Board in January, 2019. We anticipate that the SJRA Board will vote in February, 2019 as to whether to continue their “seasonal adjustment program” in 2019 under similar parameters (1 foot reduction March 1 – April 30 and 2 foot reduction August 1 – September 30), modified parameters, or no reduction at all.

SJRA’s “seasonal adjustment program” was initiated in response to flooding in the Kingwood and surrounding areas during Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent Corps of Engineers dredging project of the West Fork of the San Jacinto River. That $69.8 million project funded with FEMA monies saw dredge staging begin July 19, 2018, general debris removal/disposal and dredging begin September 21, and demobilization and cleanup to be completed by May 14, 2019 (subject to allowable delays). The aim of this project is to remove 1.8 million yards of sediment deposited as a result of Hurricane Harvey. The LCA receives monthly project updates from the Corps Supervisor responsible for this project.

It should be noted that Harris County voters approved a $2.5 billion flood bond package in August, 2018. Within this bond package, approximately $50 million was been earmarked as “permissible for dredging of the West Fork of the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston to remove debris and sediment deposited before Hurricane Harvey”. We envision that supporters of these dredging projects will attempt to utilize these $50 million immediately upon the completion of the current Corps project so as to avoid the removal of dredge equipment from the site and incur the significant start-up costs associated with transporting/setting up out-of-state dredge equipment to the site for the possible 2019/2020 project.

The LCA toured the Kingwood area in May, 2018 to review residential/business devastation and significant sediment deposits (sand bars) resulting from Hurricane Harvey. We were escorted by a very knowledgeable, energized volunteer named Bob Rehak who has expended endless hours attempting to promote the restoration of the Kingwood area as well as programs to reduce flooding in the future. His website, reduceflooding.com, provides much background on the situation should you be interested.

NEW SJRA BOARD MEMBER: Governor Abbott’s Appointment Office has appointed Ms. Brenda Cooper to the SJRA Board. Brenda is a Walden resident and someone active in our community. The LCA welcomes her as an advocate of issues involving Lake Conroe, its residents and local businesses.

NEW AQUATIC INVASIVE SPECIES ON LAKE CONROE – CRESTED FLOATING HEART: SJRA and Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPWD) have identified an invasive species new to Lake Conroe named Crested Floating Heart. This invasive is a rooted, floating leaf plant with heart-shaped leaves and showy white flowers. It is deemed highly invasive due to its unique reproductive habits which include daughter plants that develop on the stem, eventually break free, and float away to become rooted in another location. Further, this plant can reproduce by fragmentation which can be particularly difficult to control since any kind of physical damage to the plants will accelerate their invasion. Fragmentation can occur naturally by insect grazing or storm events, but it is more commonly caused by humans in areas where there is a lot of recreational use and boat traffic (sound like Lake Conroe?). It has been primarily identified in the back of Little Lake Creek (the area northwest of the bridge going over Lake Conroe and towards the town of Montgomery on FM1097) although it has been also identified downstream of that bridge. Remediation has been initiated by SJRA and TPWD via a spray crew from TPWD Jasper applying a new herbicide called Procellacor. Approximately 14 acres were treated on Friday, November 2. Reports of this invasive elsewhere have noted expansion from 20 to 2,000 acres in a period of two years where the plant has gone untreated. A photo of this plant is shown at the bottom of this letter.

LCA ANNUAL MEETING: The Annual Meeting of the LCA will occur on Thursday, January 17, 2019 at 10AM at the SJRA dam site office (3rd floor conference room) off Hwy 105. LCA Members and the general public are welcome. An overview of past year will be briefly provided, questions from attendees will be answered, and ballots will be counted for the 2019 LCA Board of Directors. We will be conducting our Annual Election of the LCA Board of Directors electronically this year (via e-mail) so as to reach the maximum number of eligible voters and reduce the administrative cost of printing and mailing ballots and envelopes. If you are a LCA Member, you should receive your e-mail voting package by December 27, 2018. As always, anyone interested in joining the LCA Board should contact us and attend one of our LCA Board Meetings held a minimum of every three (3) months. We are always looking for new individuals to join the Board and represent your sub-division and community.

Thank you for your interest and time in reviewing this LCA President’s Update. For additional information regarding the LCA, to review previous LCA President’s Updates, or to review links to relevant web sites, please visit us at www.lakeconroeassociation.com. To make a donation to the LCA, contributions may be mailed to Lake Conroe Association, P.O. Box 376, Willis, Texas 77378. Should you have any questions, you may contact us via the LCA web site or e-mail me directly at parmgb@aol.com. Wishing you safety on the lake and a very happy holiday season.

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association

LCA REQUEST FOR DOCUMENTATION FROM POA’S

LCA REQUEST FOR DOCUMENTATION FROM POA’S

Well, the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) has completed lowering Lake Conroe’s lake level to 199’ as part of its “seasonal adjustment” program for the period August 1 to September 30, 2018. As you are aware, SJRA’s rationale behind this program is to allow Lake Conroe to hold more water in a significant rain event (and not release that water downstream) while the West Fork of the San Jacinto River is being dredged. Two (2) dredges measuring 90 feet long by 25 feet wide were transported in, reassembled, and dredging commenced September 6, 2018. The dredging contract is scheduled to be completed May 3, 2019.

The Lake Conroe Association (LCA) desires to gather documentation on the actual consequences of lowering our lake level to 199’. As part of that effort, we are asking POA’s around Lake Conroe to document how lowering the lake level to 199’ affects lake access for residents in your community/sub-division. A best case scenario would be taking 3-5 pictures of locations in your sub-division having the most difficulty with lake access. If pictures aren’t your thing, a brief written description of any problems your sub-division is having would suffice. We’d ask that you forward the pictures and/or written description to me at parmgb@aol.com so that the LCA may collect as much data as possible.

Time is somewhat of the essence. SJRA will maintain our lake level at 199’ only until either 1) when we get a significant rain event which requires us to not release water downstream (and our lake level is allowed to rise for downstream flood control), or 2) September 30. After September 30, any rainfall will be captured until the lake level returns to an elevation of 201’. It being September 12 today, you have a very narrow window of opportunity to help the LCA by providing the documentation. Please take a moment NOW and shoot those pictures while we’re at the 199’ elevation. We all know that placing the task on “future to-do list” risks having your more significant priorities delay ever getting to this project….and WE REALLY NEED YOUR HELP!

The LCA is in communication with SJRA on lake level reductions. The LCA is in communication with the Corps of Engineers (contracting entity on the dredge project) on the dredging program and will be obtaining monthly updates on project status. The LCA is meeting with local businesses to inquire whether lake level reductions to 199’ are affecting their revenue and profitability. And the LCA is working with 55 POA’s on Lake Conroe to both obtain “lake level documentation” and provide ongoing communication on this issue.

Again, PLEASE HELP US HELP YOU! Thanks, in advance, for your time and cooperation.

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association

parmgb@aol.com

(936) 449-6815

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE as of July 30, 2018

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

as of July 30, 2018

The LCA has been informed that the reduction of lake levels on Lake Conroe will begin this coming week. While a final press release is currently being completed by The City of Houston and the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA), we can report the following:

1.      The current lake level on Lake Conroe is 200.52.

2.      Water will begin to be slowly released starting August 1 or shortly thereafter.

3.      The release rate should approximate no more than 1 inch per day which has been determined to be a “safe” rate for those downstream.

4.      Between this “1 inch per day release” and daily evaporation this time of year, we would estimate that the lake will reach its intended “seasonally adjusted level” of 199’ by August 16 (this is the LCA’s estimate and not a projection provided by SJRA).

5.      The objective would be to maintain Lake Conroe’s lake level at or near 199’ through September 30, 2018. Rainfall (and associated runoff) will temporarily increase that level and evaporation may decrease that level.

6.      Effective October 1, 2018, water will once again be collected from rainfall (and not released) and the lake allowed to naturally return to its normal pool elevation of 201’ (assuming it rains).

The primary rationale adopted by The City of Houston and SJRA for this “seasonal adjustment” is a) allow Lake Conroe to hold and not release water during small rain events, b) to keep water from being released into the West Fork of the San Jacinto River, c) while dredging is being completed on the West Fork of the San Jacinto River. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) waived its enforcement of regulations on releasing water from Lake Conroe when the lake is at or below an elevation of 201’ SPECIFICALLY to support this “rationale”. Why is this fact important?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing this $69.8 million project. Under the contract terms, the dredging company awarded the contract has 270 days to remove 1.8 million yards of sediment from a 2-mile stretch of the river above the Lake Houston dam. A contract timetable calls for “general debris removal and disposal” and “dredging” to commence on August 20 and September 1, respectively; and calls for “demobilize and cleanup” to be completed by May 3, 2019. Given these contract terms and the “rationale” adopted by TCEQ, water SHOULD NOT BE RELEASED from Lake Conroe after May 3, 2019 unless the lake level exceeds 201’. We could see an SJRA Board and City of Houston-approved reduction of 1’ to a “seasonally adjusted” level of 200’ between April 1 and May 3, 2019, but we should not see any lake level reductions (“seasonal adjustments”) past May 3 on Lake Conroe in 2019.

Of course, contracts get modified, excessive rains can slow contract completion, and TCEQ can modify its “rationale”. The LCA’s future focus will be an ongoing review of contract completion and trying to hold everyone to this May 3, 2019 completion date. Look for SJRA and City of Houston’s press release this week for more specifics. We’ll keep you posted.

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association