Impact of Lake-Level Reductions on Lake Conroe Area – Texas A&M Report

Here is the final report for Texas A&M estimating the impact of the lake level reductions: Lake-Conroe-Final-Report

Bottom Line Summary

  • The GRP scenarios are likely to impact lake-levels significantly. Lake-levels are expected to fall more than four feet below full pool 1.6 times more often in phase one than in prior periods, and increase to 8.5 times more often in phase four.
  • Direct economic impacts are most likely to occur geographically near the lake.
  • Residential properties in lakefront communities enjoy a 15% premium, which declines quickly with geographic distance.
  • Residents in lakefront communities expect a 28% decline in residential property values, in which case losses in real estate values would amount to $1.1 billion in the area.
  • For each foot of lake-level decline beyond the first two feet, retail trade revenue in the City of Montgomery decreases about $414,000 per quarter per foot, or about $1.6 million per year per foot.

Impact of Lake-Level Reductions on Lake Conroe Area – Texas A&M Report

Here is the final report for Texas A&M estimating the impact of the lake level reductions: Lake-Conroe-Final-Report

Bottom Line Summary

  • The GRP scenarios are likely to impact lake-levels significantly. Lake-levels are expected to fall more than four feet below full pool 1.6 times more often in phase one than in prior periods, and increase to 8.5 times more often in phase four.
  • Direct economic impacts are most likely to occur geographically near the lake.
  • Residential properties in lakefront communities enjoy a 15% premium, which declines quickly with geographic distance.
  • Residents in lakefront communities expect a 28% decline in residential property values, in which case losses in real estate values would amount to $1.1 billion in the area.
  • For each foot of lake-level decline beyond the first two feet, retail trade revenue in the City of Montgomery decreases about $414,000 per quarter per foot, or about $1.6 million per year per foot.

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

Wrapping up 2011, it’s been a year unlike any other in Lake Conroe’s 37-year history and record breaking for Montgomery County and most of the State of Texas.  We were parched by record temperatures for most of our Summer and Fall, and the state-wide drought created problems not seen since the 1950’s.  Our poor little Lake Conroe saw record low lake levels, and these low levels have frustrated boaters, fishermen, local businesses, our real estate community and elected officials of City, County and State government.  Cooler temperatures and recent rainfall have become reason for higher spirits, but our dying trees and lingering low lake levels remind us each day of a year most are pleased see come to an end.

Topics concerning Lake Conroe and the LCA follow:

1.      LCA ANNUAL MEETING: Our LCA Annual Meeting will be held on Friday, January 20, 2012 at the dam site offices off Highway 105 of the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) at 10AM in the Lake Conroe Conference Room.  In conjunction with this Annual Meeting, a Meeting Agenda and Voting Proxy will be mailed to our LCA Members next week.  The Voting Proxy allows Members to vote by mail on the election of 2012 LCA Directors and also recommends a change to our LCA Bylaws permitting voting by e-mail in 2013 (as a means to conserve funds currently spent on the cost of mailing envelopes, return envelopes and postage).  We are pleased that all nine (9) LCA 2011 Directors have offered to volunteer their time for 2012 in the same capacity, if re-elected by our Members.

  1. 2.      LAKE LEVEL DATA:  After the generous rainfall we experienced over the past two weeks, our landscape may be happier but our lake level remains at a dismal level of 192.79 as of today…..8 feet,3 inches below normal pool.  These lake levels reflect the lowest levels in the history of the Lake.   The City of Houston reduced its daily withdrawl rate from 165 MILLION GALLONS to 60 MILLION GALLONS as of November 28, 2011 and, on November 30, stopped withdrawing altogether.  The City of Houston has withdrawn an estimated 48,654 acre feet (or 15.8 BILLION GALLONS) between August 16, 2011 and today (approximately 2.6 feet of water over our lake’s surface).  The City of Houston can still withdraw an estimated 18,013 acre feet (or 5.9 BILLION GALLONS) before December 31, 2011 under its 2011 allotment provided under its contract with SJRA.
  2. 3.      CATAHOULA AQUIFER:  As you are most likely aware, SJRA will initiate its Groundwater Reduction Plan (“GRP”) in 2016 by removing approximately 1 foot of water per year from Lake Conroe to assist with meeting the ever-growing water demands of Montgomery County.  Some success has been achieved by identifying and testing water located in the Catahoula Aquifer below portions of Montgomery County.  Montgomery County has always pumped water from the Jasper Aquifer, and possible use of water from the Catahoula Aquifer (never utilized before) could supplement our water supply and possibly reduce the demand of water from Lake Conroe.  Currently, 3 wells have been drilled into the Catahoula Aquifer in Montgomery County (at Bentwater, April Sound and Panorama) and testing is underway to determine the feasibility of use of the Catahoula for our future.  For an extensive discussion of the Catahoula Aquifer, you can visit the Lake Conroe Community Network’s website at www.lakeconroecn.com or SJRA’s website at www.sjra.net.
  3. 4.      TEXAS A&M LAKE LEVEL STUDY:  The $152,000 study commissioned by Montgomery County (of which the LCA paid $69,000) and coordinated by Lake Conroe Community Network has had its completion date pushed back.  Texas A&M University was engaged to review the effects of removing water from Lake Conroe as part of SJRA’s GRP (referenced above).  Of particular concern are future lake levels, potentially reduced sales tax and property tax collections by Montgomery County, and effects on real estate values and local businesses.  A November 7, 2011 Public Meeting summarizing findings-to-date was postponed to give Texas A&M further time to gather complete information.  It is expected that the Public Meeting will be held sometime in March, 2012.
  4. 5.      LCA DUES FOR 2012:  As you may recall, the LCA waived its dues requirements for LCA Members for the year May, 2011 through April, 2012.  This decision was based on our overall suffering economy, the LCA’s current cash balance, and the LCA’s projected cash needs for that year.  Not envisioning large cash demands on the LCA in the coming year, the LCA Board currently plans to waive the collection of dues for the coming year May, 2012 through April, 2013.  We do this confident that, should a significant event occur in the next year needing extensive contributions from the LCA for the benefit of our lake community, our Members would respond positively to an emergency fund raising campaign to secure needed monies.  You would, right?
  5. 6.      DRIVING A VEHICLE IN THE DRY LAKE BED:  Lake Conroe has an imaginary line dividing the southern 2/3 of Lake Conroe (enforcement governed by SJRA) from the northern 1/3 of Lake Conroe (enforcement governed by the Texas Forest Service).  For those familiar with the northern portion of Lake Conroe, Scott’s Ridge Public Boat Launch and Campgrounds denotes the beginning of that portion of the lake under Texas Forest Service enforcement.  In the northern 1/3, vehicles are prohibited from operation in the dry lake bed.  In the southern 2/3, specific regulations have not been developed to preclude use of a vehicle in the dry lake bed.  Should SJRA encounter significant problems created by vehicle use, they reserve the right to modify this policy.  In general, the objective is to protect emerging grasses and the environmentally sensitive lake bed.  As an example, driving around in 4-wheeler doing “donuts” in front of someone’s property would not be viewed favorably nor environmentally conservative by SJRA.  I’d say the simple rule would be “Use some common sense.”
  6. 7.      “CLEANING” THE DRY LAKE BED:  Removing loose trash from the dry lake bed such as bottles, cans, life preservers, tires, and miscellaneous man-made stuff is acceptable to both SJRA and the Texas Forest Service.   SJRA has stated that cutting tall vegetation directly in front of your boat dock which would impede use of your boat (if we had water) is acceptable.  Without advance permission, the cutting of/removal of tree stumps or the removal of fishing “spider blocks” (concrete blocks with steel or aluminum pipes protruding from them as to resemble a brush pile or fallen tree) are not permitted.  If you find something you think may be a “spider block”, SJRA has offered to accumulate a list of locations where “spider blocks” are found and, subsequently, tow them into deeper water (at no cost to the homeowner) for use of fishermen in deeper waters where a boat prop or swimmer will not be harmed.  If in question about removing something, I’d contact SJRA at 936-588-1111 and ask for Bret Raley.
  7. 8.      PUBLIC BOAT LAUNCHES IN SERVICE:  Without having conducted a complete search of the entire lake, we can tell you that the following locations are reported to still have enough water to launch your boat.  The LCA has not visited these locations and cannot report specific water depths.  If interested, I’d place a phone call to the facility prior to towing your boat to any location…and make a safe decision on your own.  Those locations include Cagle Recreational Area, EZ Boat Storage, Lake View Marina, Palms Marina and Stow-Away Marina.  Updates on launch site openings and closures can be reviewed at SJRA’s website (www.sjra.net).
  8. 9.      REMOVAL OF DANGEROUS STUMPS IN THE MAIN BODY OF LAKE CONROE:  In the spirit of contributing towards an enjoyable and safe boating experience on Lake Conroe, the LCA is reviewing the cost of contracting a company for the removal of specific tree stumps in the main body of the Lake.  To be clear, this is in the main body of the lake.  This does not pertain to coves off the main body of the Lake nor to any stumps in the northern 1/3 of Lake Conroe.  We have identified approximately 250 stumps by jet ski for consideration.  The potential contractor has met with SJRA to agree upon rules to be applied, and both SJRA and the contractor will have agreed upon the specific stumps to be removed and the disposal, if any, of the tree trunk debris.  No agreed-upon price has been settled nor any contract signed.  Again, it is in the spirit of providing a safe boating experience for our community that we have considered this request from our Members, and the LCA feels this falls under our purpose of “overseeing, directing, initiating, and promulgating programs that directly affect the control, use, and enjoyment of Lake Conroe for the benefit of any private member or shareholder”.
  9. 10.  DON’T SINK IN LAKE BED MUD:  While the dry lake bed may appear to be safe for an afternoon stroll, please exercise caution when approaching “the mud”.  I experienced a young woman this Sunday taking her dog for a walk in the dry lake bed when her journey took a foreseeable bad turn.  As she decided to venture off “the sand” and into “the mud”, she quickly began to sink…..first boots high, then knee high, then waist high, and finally chest high.  While our football-watching party of 40 or so found some level of entertainment in her poor choice, her predicament caused enough concern for us to call “911” for help.  Ultimately, she somehow pulled herself out of the muck before “911” emergency personnel arrived; but her clothes (and her pride) will never be the same again.  Please be careful out there. 

Thank you for sharing your time in reading this LCA President’s Update.  We hope you find the information helpful and informative.  Should you desire to learn more about the LCA, review previous correspondence with our Members, or provide feedback on this edition of LCA President’s Update, you can utilize our website at www.lakeconroeassociation.com.  Have a happy and safe Holiday Season, and we look forward to a wonderful 2012 !!

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association

As Lake Conroe’s waterline sinks, concerns rise

By LINDSAY PEYTON, HOUSTON CHRONICLE CORRESPONDENT
Published 12:35 p.m., Tuesday, August 30, 2011

When the city of Houston ordered a gradual release of water from Lake Conroe on Aug. 15, concerns about the lake’s future began to rise as water levels started to drop.

On Aug. 16, the San Jacinto River Authority released 50 million gallons of water into the San Jacinto River, and the amount increased throughout the week to reach a daily rate of 150 million gallons. The water flows downstream to Lake Houston, so that reservoir remains deep enough to keep Houston’s water purification plant there operating.

Stew Darsey, president of the Lake Conroe Area Chamber of Commerce, said that the resulting lower lake levels could hurt area business owners.

If visitors to Lake Conroe opt to travel elsewhere for weekend getaways, Darsey said it could hurt service stations and hotels, as well as lakeside attractions.

Several business owners on the lake, however, maintain they are not worried.

Jim Winkler, a developer in the Lake Conroe area for more than 20 years, owns a land development on Texas 105 housing several waterfront businesses.

“It’s just what goes with lake territory,” Winkler said. “It’s what a lake does.”

Houston taxpayers years ago paid for the construction of both lakes on the San Jacinto River to secure the city’s water supply. Lake Houston, covering 12,000 acres in northeast Harris County, began operations in 1953, followed by the 21,000-acre Lake Conroe in Montgomery County in 1973.

Lake Conroe is used to hold water in reserve until it’s needed by Lake Houston’s water plant.

Winkler’s development includes the Marina at Waterpoint, offering personal watercraft and boat rentals and boat storage.

He said experience has taught him not to be too concerned. “We don’t get upset about the lake like we used to,” he said. “In business and on the lake, we go through ups and downs. We’re just going through a low right now with lake levels.”

Conroe’s current lake level is 196.6 feet above mean sea level, which is 4.4 feet below its normal level of 201 feet. The lowest the level has ever dropped is 5 feet below normal in 1989, the only other time the city of Houston ordered water withdrawn for seven months, said San Jacinto River Authority’s deputy general manager, Jace Houston.

However, if Lake Conroe is drained of this amount for two months, the lake’s water level will quickly plummet to a new all-time record low.

Houston explained the city owns two-thirds of the lake’s water and may use up all 67,000 acre-feet if there is no relief from the drought this year. The San Jacinto River Authority owns the remaining third of the water.

At the current rate of 150 million gallons released per day, the city would use its allotment sometime in January.

The city is then entitled to draw another 67,000 acre-feet per year.

“Lakes are designed to yield a certain amount for seven years,” he said. “We would have to have a seven year drought to dry up Lake Conroe.”

Houston said that the city is not using the lake at maximum capacity. The water release equates to a loss of three or four inches per week. Adjusted for evaporation during the drought and with summer heat, the lake level could decline five to six inches a week.

“It’s a hardship on residents. It’s hard for boaters and local businesses that rely on the lake, but we have plenty of water on supply,” he said.

Winkler said that when the lake levels are down, it affects real estate sales of waterfront properties.

“It makes buyers unsure, especially if they don’t have any history on the lake,” he said.

When the levels return to normal, Winkler predicts that sales will also rise.

“Everyone will forget the lake was ever low,” he said. “The water level will get back really fast when we see rain. We just haven’t seen rain for awhile.”

Gary Richardson, a partner at the Palms Marina located on FM 830, agrees that fluctuating water levels should be expected.

“The lake will fill back up. People need to realize that,” Richardson said. “All it takes is one big rain.”

Richardson said that marinas located in deep water could benefit from lower lake levels. He said people will still be able to launch their boats from those marinas.

“You just have to navigate carefully along the shoreline,” he said.

Richardson, also a broker with Prudential Gary Greene, said that negative publicity about the lower lake levels has slowed down home sales, but he also blames discussions of state and city budget issues.

“I think all real estate has slowed down. Everyone seems to not want to spend money right now,” he said.

Richardson said sales around Lake Conroe have been up from the previous year, if only a marginal amount.

“Still, it’s going in the right direction,” he said. “I think people still want to move here.”

Richardson said he and his brother have operated businesses on the lake since it was established in the 1970s and that lake levels have been fairly constant. “I watched the lake go up,” he said. “It’s been low one time before and that filled up in a few months.”

Richardson said the marina will still prepare for the worst case scenario, digging deeper down just in case the water level continues to subside.

David Mosberg, general manager of April Sound Country Club, said the largest problem he has faced is the effect on the club’s aquatic golf range.

He said the first ten feet of the range are no longer in water.

Mosberg said for April Sound residents, the issue is mainly aesthetic, but he said the views from the country club have not been affected.

“It really hasn’t affected a lot of our views,” he said. “From our dining rooms, you can’t see much of a difference.”

Some of the residents of April Sound cannot launch their boats from their own slips and some waterfront homes could now better be described as beachfront.

Darsey believes that Houston’s call for water should serve as a wake-up call for Montgomery County residents.

“I’m confident that what’s happening now will make us sit up and realize that we need to do something to establish an alternate water source,” he said. “If we wait longer still, shame on us.”

With an eye on long-term growth in the county, Darsey said water is a top concern.

“If we don’t have enough water to support the people who live here, we can’t grow,” he said.

Accompanying Photo and Caption

Lake Conroe's Low Lake LevelWaterfront homeowners in La Torretta, on Lake Conroe’s Lake southwest side, can’t use their boats or boat docks because of the low water conditions. Conroe’s current lake level is 197.3 feet above mean sea level, which is 3.7 feet below normal. The lake may be drawn down even more if the City of Houston starts drawing water from the lake. Some lake front homeowners are unable to use their boats dock and boaters are being warned to be extra careful while using the lake. Photo by David Hopper Photo: Freelance, David Hopper / freelance

Journalists Seeking The Worst from Interviews

August 2011 Sunset

August 2011 Sunset

The lowering lake levels of Lake Conroe has become a story journalists are pursuing in earnest. In each story, the focus is to make the lake look really bad!

I know of three persons interviewed recently for stories that said the interviewer was only interested negative answers. Judging from the boat usage on the lake, the real story is about people still having fun on Lake Conroe. That’s not what makes a good story for journalists though.

Especially deceptive have been the Houston Television networks. Somewhere they find an area to film that looks nothing like 99% of the rest of the lake. Lake Conroe was never a constant level lake and properties in shallow coves have had these same conditions before. This isn’t good journalism, it is someone trying to make things fit the story they already wrote.

I can understand the local lakefront property owners in shallow coves being upset, but as this recent photo testifies, the main lake remains a source of boating and spiritual pleasure for most of us that notice. So when a journalist comes to interview you, remind them that you ‘love Lake Conroe’ and wouldn’t live where they live even if the lake were empty!

Some Marinas and Boat Launch Facilites Getting Ready for Lower Lake Levels on Lake Conroe

You’ve seen the barges and draglines shuttling dirt from place to place for weeks now. Homeowners along the shoreline are taking advantage of the decreasing lake levels to deepen their channels to the lake. For many, the dredging is the only option to use their boats at all. Others have removed their boats from the shallows of their docks to deep water marinas or dry storage on land. Many boats are already permanently marooned to “hang in the wind” until the drought of 2011 ends.

Anticipating even greater drops to come, a couple marina and direct access boat storage businesses around the lake are busy upgrading and deepening the access to the lake for their tenants. Before the beginning of summer, The Palms Marina at the end of FM 830 expanded one of their boat ramps to provide launching access in water 6 foot or more below normal pool levels. And E-Z Boat Storage on the main body of the lake is conststantly dredging from their already deep launch to the reach the lake anticipating a 4 foot or more drop to come.

Knowing that Lake Houston is running out of water to supply the City of Houston with drinking water, Lake Conroe is sure to begin helping funnel water into the Lake Houston water plant. With that in mind, and no end in sight to the current drought conditions, users and businesses of Lake Conroe need to adapt to the changing conditions. The surface area of the lake is already diminishing and sandbars are appearing in several locations. With shorelines creeping below bulkhead bottoms, watch for a calmer and smoother boating experience. At low lake levels, Lake Conroe can have pleasant surprises to those with an open-mind!

In this Lake Conroe community, an experiment continues

This is an article published in the Conroe Courier by Jim Fredricks, publisher concerning the issue of water conservation and shortages in Montgomery County. Please read!!!

Throughout Montgomery County, officials are trying to prod residents to conserve water.

They’re imposing higher water rates in some cases, and in Conroe and The Woodlands at least, paying for irrigation experts to inspect a homeowner’s sprinkler system at their request.

But in one Lake Conroe community, leaders there have launched something different – a public experiment.

In Bentwater, eight homeowners have agreed to participate in a pilot program to encourage conservation, dubbed “Water Wise.” It goes beyond focusing on the most obvious and biggest target for conservation – sprinkler systems – to incorporate a comprehensive approach to changing water habits. High-efficiency shower heads and water-efficient commodes, for example, recently have been installed in the eight pilot homes. Even more, each month, data on water use for the eight homes – for sprinkler systems and uses inside the house (including showers and filling swimming pools) – is posted on the Bentwater Civic Association’s website. You can check it out at www.bentwatercivic.com. Those eight homeowners, in other words, are under a microscope.

The Water Wise program is headed by a committee chaired by Bentwater resident Pat MacParland, who is applying his considerable talents as a retired chemical engineer to the problem of getting people to start saving water.

“Every month we publish data on our eight pilot homes, and we have an update every month we put up there,” he said in a recent interview. “We’ve been at it for six months, we’ve been recording activities and water consumption inside the house, which includes when you wash the car, and even includes filling the swimming pools. It’s kind of all-encompassing.

“We also record irrigation water. And it turns out that at our eight pilot homes, their total consumption over the summertime was right at the 50th percentile of all the community’s homeowners – which is right around 20,000 gallons a month.”

It’s an accomplishment, MacParland said, but he believes the homeowners can do even better as usage data begins to kick on the new, more water-efficient devices in the homes that were installed.

One of the biggest goals was to demonstrate that irrigation systems are dumping way too much water on the lawns of the community’s 1,600 homeowners, and that cutting back wouldn’t diminish a lawn’s beauty, even through the brutal heat of a Texas summer. Irrigation, according to most experts, accounts for about two-thirds of household usage – and half of that is wasted.

One of the eight pilot homes had an UgMo system installed that involves wireless moisture probes buried 4-6 inches below the soil surface. The probes tell the sprinkler system when it is time to water. Meanwhile, the other pilot homes simply tried to watch their sprinkler usage better, eventually getting, on average, down to just 1.25 inches a week. The home with the UgMo system got down to about an eighth of an inch a week. And the lawns are still green. “I think we’ve pretty well shown that an inch a week is quite adequate,” MacParland said.

As a resident of a lakeside community, MacParland says the urgency of conservation is increasing, especially as the county prepares to shift an enormous amount of its water supply from the aquifers to Lake Conroe. Lake Conroe residents continue to be concerned how that issue will affect lake levels, despite the persistent assurances of San Jacinto River Authority officials that they need not worry.

But even more, MacParland said, the pilot demonstrations show that conservation is more possible than many of us think – if we’ll just do it.

“I’m actually kind of flabbergasted with the opportunity that exists. I’m also flabbergasted at the amount of water that is wasted.”

Jim Fredricks is publisher of The Courier; he can be reached at (936) 521-3400 or jfredricks@hcnonline.com.

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

It has been a beautiful, yet dry, Fall season so far.  I hope you’ve made your way outdoors to enjoy the lower temperatures, lower humidity and endless sunshine we’ve shared for the past six weeks or so.  But with “the good” usually comes “some bad”.  Officially in the Lake Conroe area, we’ve had only 2.83 inches of rain since September 1 and the lake level has dropped to a level of 199.36 as of today.  At this level, the lake is 1 foot 8 inches below its normal pool elevation of 201 feet.  Please be careful out there boating as submerged debris and stumps are much closer to the surface when the lake level is down.

With the lack of rainfall and dry conditions, Montgomery County was officially placed under a Burn Ban as of October 25.  Please resist burning your leaves or lighting that Fall bonfire as conditions are extremely hazardous.

The Lake Conroe Association (LCA) initiated its Annual Fund Raising Campaign on June 10 and identified its primary, immediate need to be monies to fund a study by Texas A&M University which will review future lake levels once water starts being removed by the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) in 2016 (further discussion of this Texas A&M study follows).  The LCA agreed to pay $66,000 of the $142,000 total study cost; with the balance funded by Montgomery County, the Cities of Conroe and Montgomery, various MUD’s, Lake Conroe Communities Network (LCCN) and other lake-related donors.  LCA’s Annual Fund Raising Campaign has raised $57,585 to date and $8,415 was paid from the LCA’s reserves to meet that $66,000 obligation.  We greatly appreciate the continued generosity of our LCA Members in donating $57,585 during these difficult economic times.  Should you have missed the LCA’s Annual Fund Raising Campaign and still desire to contribute, monies can be mailed payable to the “Lake Conroe Association” at PO Box 376, Willis, Texas  77378-9998.

The contract between Texas A&M University and Montgomery County for the above-referenced Lake Study was approved by Commissioners Court and executed by Montgomery County on September 27.  With SJRA prepared to initiate significant water removal in 2016 yet stating that the effects on Lake Conroe’s lake levels will be “minimal”, the Lake Study will review engineering studies commissioned by SJRA in an effort to understand and validate (or not validate) SJRA’s conclusions on future lake levels.  Should Texas A&M’s study conclude that lake levels may drop lower than predicted by SJRA, Texas A&M will also study the economic impact on our community, and Montgomery County as a whole, of lower lake levels.  The 16 month “Timeline of A&M Study of Economic Impact of SJRA’s Planned Lake Level Reductions” includes reviews of lake level studies, property value assessments, and sales tax revenue data; and also includes a survey of residents, business survey and a contemplated Town Hall Meeting.  The Lake Study including all elements listed here is to be completed by December, 2011.

As you’ve most likely read, water conservation has become a key element in both reducing our overall water consumption and potentially helping maintain lake levels in Lake Conroe.  LCCN (a local community organization) has spearheaded the water conservation topic and held several presentations to elected officials, MUD’s, and interested parties.  For more information about LCCN and their work on water conservation, you may review their website at www.lakeconroecn.com.

An invasive species named Zebra Mussels have been identified for the first time on Lake Conroe.  Zebra Mussels multiply quickly and have damaged many bodies of water in the U.S. and around the world (causing clogged intake pipes, damaging boat hulls, creating sharp surfaces on boat docks and lake floors, and altering water chemistry).  Fortunately, this case of Zebra Mussels was identified on the hull of a boat BEFORE it was launched into Lake Conroe thanks to an observant marina owner (and LCA Board Vice President).  In conjunction with Texas Parks & Wildlife and SJRA, the LCA has contributed $1,250 towards the creation and installation of 250 permanent signs around Lake Conroe at various access points to educate the public on the importance of inspecting your boat hull before launching that boat into any body of water.  For more information on Zebra Mussels, you can access www.texasinvasives.org.

Texas Parks & Wildlife completed its survey of aquatic vegetation on Lake Conroe in July, 2010 and reported only 0.02 acres of Hydrilla, 1.79acres of Giant Salvinia and 1.16 acres of Water Hyacinth…..ALL GREAT NEWS !!  Native vegetation (natural, beneficial plants) held steady at 150.21 acres.  Many thanks are due Texas Parks & Wildlife and SJRA for their efforts in controlling invasive aquatic vegetation on Lake Conroe, and to our LCA Members who have donated over $500,000 over the past four (4) years towards this cause.

As you may be aware, the primary method of controlling Hydrilla (which covered over 2,000 surface acres of Lake Conroe only two years ago) has been the purchase of 130,000 White Amur Grass Carp.  Based on a 32% estimated mortality per year and the fact that this species has been genetically-engineered so as not to produce offspring, Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPWD) estimates that 48,000 were still alive on May 31, 2010 and projects that 32,000, 22,000 and 15,000 grass carp will be alive on May 31 of 2011, 2012 and 2013, respectively.  When asked how it will calculate when to start adding new White Amur Grass Carp to Lake Conroe, TPWD responded “As soon as Hydrilla starts to expand into water beyond a few inches deep, it will likely be time to add more grass carp.  At that point, stocking calculations will be based on returning the number of grass carp per total surface acre to the most recent survey where Hydrilla was totally under control.  In this way, we hopefully will remain in a proactive mode instead of a reactive mode.”  The LCA meets regularly with TPWD and SJRA to discuss aquatic plant surveys and means by which to maintain a healthy Lake Conroe.

Well, that’s it for another edition of our LCA President’s Update.  You can review previous editions of these LCA President’s Updates, follow current topics of interest, and send us your comments at our website at www.lakeconroeassociation.com.  We’re wishing you a wonderful Fall season on the lake and thank you for your continued support.

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association

Lake Conroe’s impact worth measuring

Published by The Conroe Courier – Over the years, development has enveloped Lake Conroe, representing a sizeable contribution to the Montgomery County economy.

But exactly how big is that contribution, and exactly how would the county be affected if lake levels in a time of drought dropped 12 feet or more?

It’s a question that deserves an answer, but it’s going to cost some money to get it.

The Lake Conroe Communities Network is seeking participants and funding for a quantitative study of the economic impact of lower lake levels. If lake levels were to drop significantly, it would definitely have an impact on the Lake Conroe economy, and would begin to dry up sales tax revenues and eventually could affect revenues from property values. The objective of the study, according to our story by Reporter Howard Roden, would be to provide an assessment of the economic impact from sustained lower water levels of the lake. The study would include surveys of local residents, historical analysis and study of other communities in comparable circumstances.

The network is asking city of Montgomery officials for a contribution of $5,000 to help fund an economic study of the area based on declining water levels. The proposed study by Texas A&M University would cost approximately $140,000 and take up to 16 months to complete. Already, according to the network, the Lake Conroe Association, the city of Conroe and Commissioners Court have pledged support to the project.

It’s clear, from just a glance at the residential and business development that surrounds it, that Lake Conroe is a key part of the county’s economic success. It would be worthwhile knowing exactly how significant that impact really is, and how plummeting lake levels could affect that value. For more information about the LCCN effort to raise support for a study of the economic impact of lower water levels on Lake Conroe, call (936) 448-1809.

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

On January 15, 2010, the Lake Conroe Association held its Annual Meeting at the San Jacinto River Authority’s office to summarize 2009 LCA activities for its members and elect the LCA Board for 2010.  Through proxies submitted by LCA members, you have chosen to re-elect the 2009 LCA Board to the 2010 LCA Board.  Your 2010 LCA Board consists of Gene Barrington, Mike Bleier, Tom Butz, Dawn Cleboski, Gene Colbert, Rich Cutler, Jim Pohoski, Ben Richardson and Sue Wheatley.  Upon being re-elected for 2010, the LCA Board then voted the following into office for 2010:  Mike Bleier, President; Ben Richardson, Vice President; Dawn Cleboski, Secretary; and Tom Butz, Treasurer.  We thank our LCA members for supporting us and I thank the LCA Board for volunteering their time for yet again another year of service.

 

To provide a brief summary of 2009 activities, I list the following:

  • ·          Dam repair from Hurricane Ike damage was commenced in January, 2009 and completed in April, 2009
  • ·          Due to the collective efforts of many, Hydrilla was reduced to 2 acres by January, 2009
  • ·          Water Hyacinth reduced from 68 acres in October, 2008 to 13 acres in July, 2009
  • ·          Giant Salvinia reduced from 628 acres in October, 2008 to 50 acres in July, 2009
  • ·          Native plants were planted in Lake Conroe during 2009 by the Seven Cove Bass Club and Texas Parks & Wildlife to replace some of the native vegetation eaten by the White Amur Grass Carp
  • ·          A “Water Summit” was held by Judge Sadler and invited local officials (not including the LCA) to discuss water issues for our County
  • ·          The LCA sent a Water Question & Answer Survey to over 19,000 local residents and businesses to get responses to fourteen questions about water issues in our County and lake levels on Lake Conroe.  Survey results from over 2,500 respondents were submitted to attendees of the ‘Water Summit”.  Subsequent to this, the LCA has been included in most all meetings with local officials regarding water issues.

 

To give you a sense of what the LCA Board does on your behalf other than meet once a month, during 2009 we met with State Senator Nichols, State Representative Brandon Creighton, Conroe Mayor Melder, County Judge Sadler, County Commissioners Meador and Doyal, the San Jacinto River Authority, Texas Parks & Wildlife, the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District, the Region H Water Planning Board, the Woodlands Township Board, Lake Conroe Communities Network, and the Seven Coves Bass Club.  We present to Property Owner Associations and various local groups upon request.  We testified in Austin over funding for aquatic plant management.  And taking the lion share of our time currently, we involve ourselves in the various water issues for our County in cooperation with many involved parties.

 

I don’t know if you’re tired of the overall “water topic” in our County, but I’d be remiss to ignore the problem in this update.  I divide the “water topic” into three catagories:  Water contracts with large water users, Lake levels on Lake Conroe, and Future water sources for our County.  We have stayed away from the category “Water contracts with large water users” since this is an individual issue between The City of Conroe, various MUD Districts and the San Jacinto River Authority.  We hope they will collectively resolve this situation to provide the best solution for everyone involved.  On the category “Future water sources for our County”, this topic is somewhat “tabled” currently (and will be picked up again in the near future).  I say “tabled” because the immediate priority has been resolving the issue of “Water contracts with large water users” and the necessity for the San Jacinto River Authority to initiate construction of its water treatment plant and pipelines by the imposed 2016 completion deadline.  Judge Sadler did present his concept of a future reservoir site within our County to the Region H Water Planning Board, but that Board elected to exclude this request currently based on a lack of adequate engineering studies at this time.  A thorough review of reservoir site options and cost comparisons to other sources of water such as buying water from the Trinity River Authority or drilling deep wells to capture “brackish water” (water with a high salt content located below the aquifers we currently utilize) will be further explored this year independently by a variety of entities.  While the San Jacinto River Authority has not committed to review alternative reservoir sites until after 2016, we are hopeful that their timetable will be moved up and resources allocated to this review prior to 2016.  And that leaves us with the topic of “Lake levels on Lake Conroe”……a topic of great interest to our many LCA members.

 

Rather than go down the arguments that “Lake Conroe was built as a reservoir and not for the benefit of lakefront owners” or “Lowering the level of Lake Conroe will have enormous affects on the local economy and property values”, I’ll just summarize what’s being done to review the data regarding lake levels.  The San Jacinto River Authority hired an independent consulting firm to utilize historic data to project the potential effects on our lake levels and, based on reports provided to them by those consultants, concluded that “The true effect of SJRA’s plan on the lake level of Lake Conroe will be minimal”.  It appears that all in the County are not quite ready to accept that conclusion.  While I, personally, waded through piles of data and reports to try to come to the same conclusion as SJRA, I found the sheer quantity of data to be daunting and my engineering expertise lacking to report as any type of “expert”.  Fortunately, in attending a meeting at SJRA’s office last week, I learned that plenty of entities have engaged their own consultants to review the work completed by SJRA’s consultants.  In fact, this data and the conclusions reached are being currently reviewed by a minimum of five (5) other consulting firms employed individually by the City of Conroe, the Region H Water Planning Board, the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District, a group of MUD Districts and a group of local developers whose future projects would be negatively affected by low lake levels.  While I do not have a specific timetable from them on completion of their five independent reviews, I’m confident all understand time is of the essence and that they are far more qualified than I to adequately review this important topic.

 

But, here are a few of things I can share with you based on our involvement to date.  SJRA presents information that in future years of maximum water use (2045 and beyond by their estimation) where 100,000 acre feet per year are drawn from Lake Conroe (which SJRA refers to as “4 feet of water”), we should not be concerned because an average of seven (7) feet of water is released through the dam each year.  First, I’d like to clarify that 100,000 acre feet is far closer to “5 feet of water” than “4 feet of water”.  Second, the conclusion that the 100,000 acre feet per year of water won’t be reached until 2045 is based on two critical assumptions: 1) Projected population growth, and 2) Estimated re-charge rate of our aquifer.  If either of these assumptions are in error, we could see the use of that 100,000 acre feet per year much earlier than 2045.  And third, while stating that an “average” of seven feet of water is released through the dam each year, the use of this “average” is quite misleading.  In fact, in the ten years ended 2008, less than 100,000 acre feet per year were released in five (5) out of the past ten (10) years.  Specifically, releases were as follows:  1999….68,531 acre feet, 2000….15,391 acre feet, 2003….85,978 acre feet, 2006….10,391 acre feet, and 2008….58,193 acre feet.  We look forward to these five consulting firms reviewing SJRA’s historical data and the underlying assumptions applied, and we hope they reinforce SJRA’s conclusion that “lake level effects will be minimal”.  It would be wonderful to have all agree on the validity of SJRA’s conclusions and get us all moving in one direction together on the lake level topic.

 

While I have not discussed the need for Water Conservation, it clearly remains a vital topic for our future.  Since the Lake Conroe Communities Network (LCCN) has created a committee to review this area, the LCA did not see the need for a duplication of efforts.  The LCA does have a LCA Board Member on LCCN’s Water Committee.  LCCN is a valuable local organization who tackles numerous topics on our collective behalf, and they deserve our support and thanks.

 

If you were wondering, we estimate that approximately 59,000 White Amur Grass Carp are still alive currently in Lake Conroe.  This is based on Texas Parks & Wildlife’s assumption of a 32% mortality rate per year and no reproduction of the genetically modified species.

 

Just a reminder…..early voting is currently being conducted for the March 2 primary elections.  For many on Lake Conroe, the closest location is the West County Courthouse Annex at 19380 Texas 105 West, Suite 507 in Montgomery.  The Courier lists all early voting locations and times if you’re looking for an alternative site.  Whether you early vote or vote on March 2, please voice your opinion by voting.

 

 January rainfall at the damsite totaled2.28 inches and February rainfall through February 17 totalled 2.44 inches.  In reviewing data from the damsite between 1999 and 2008, average January rainfall has equated to3.81 inches and average February rainfall for 17 days has equated to 2.09 inches.  Water is currently being released from the dam and today’s lake level is 201.16.   The average temperature in January and February is 47 degrees and 52 degrees, respectively, compared to our actual 2010 results of 46 degrees for January and 42 degrees for February.

 

And finally, the LCA is trying to update a list of Property Owners’ Associations.  This information would be used to keep the various Lake Conroe communities advised of issues critical to our lake.  Would you please contact the head of your POA and request that they provide us with 1) Name of your subdivision or lakefront community, 2) An e-mail contact for the POA, and 3) A phone number or contact for the POA if no e-mail is available?  This information will be used only by the LCA and not shared with anyone.  Please send replies to our LCA Board Member Jim Pohoski at  jimpoho@cebridge.net.  Thank you, in advance, for your consideration in this request.

 

We hope you found this LCA President’s Update to be informative and appreciate your continuing support.  Should you have questions or feedback, e-mails can be sent to www.lakeconroeassociation.com.  Let’s look forward to wonderful Spring and Summer seasons ahead.

 

Working for you,

 

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association