The committee of Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPWD), San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA), Lake Conroe Association (LCA), and angler organizations including Seven Coves Bass Club received wonderful news from TPWD regarding Lake Conroe’s Hydrilla infestation. Hydrilla was reported to have decreased from 2,033 acres in January, 2008 to 363 acres in March, 2008 – the lowest Hydrilla acreage since 2005. Finally, some good news !!
TPWD described “schools of White Amur” traveling throughout the Lake and ravaging our nuisance, invasive weed. With approximately 110,000 White Amur still alive at this time (based on an estimated 32% mortality factor) and only 363 infested acres, the White Amur now hold a distinct advantage over Hydrilla in that they are currently stocked at 302 fish/acre. If 110,000 White Amur can devour 1,670 Hydrilla infested acres in two months, just think what those 110,000 White Amur can do to the remaining 363 acres. Even though we are just entering Hydrilla growing season as Lake temperatures warm and sunshine intensifies, we are cautiously optimistic that the Summer of 2008 will be much improved for all Lake users.
Concerns exist over the possibility that once the White Amur eat the majority of our Hydrilla, they will turn to other Lake vegetation as their food source. TPWD reported that White Amur like to eat Bushy Pond Weed, a plant that has caused certain portions of our Lake to become unattractive and less navigable. TPWD also stated that White Amur are less inclined to eat Coontail or Vallisneria – both plants that provide excellent fish habitat and improve water quality. TPWD is actively monitoring the condition of our native plant community and has enlisted the services of two Texas A&M graduate students to study various Lake conditions documented by them in 2007 and comparing that data to new data being gathered in 2008. TPWD stated they were optimistic that our native plant community would survive.
TPWD and SJRA will develop a new, written Aquatic Plant Management Plan for Lake Conroe as the current Plan expired March, 2008. The new Plan will call for surveys of Hydrilla and Giant Salvinia every two months. Should Hydrilla unexpectedly show signs of a “spike” in growth, TPWD has agreed that supplemental stockings of White Amur will not be ruled out. Further, TPWD said any such “spikes” would be dealt with “immediately” rather than taking a slower, measured approach as used throughout the past two (2) years.
The news about another invasive weed, Giant Salvinia, was less encouraging. Giant Salvinia has been reported to cover between 300 – 500 acres currently, and the plant is already actively growing with our warmer temperatures. Giant Salvinia is particularly dangerous for our Lake as it can double in size every three (3) days. SJRA has already initiated herbicide applications to Giant Salvinia, and is negotiating with a helicopter operator for aerial sprayings in the less populated areas like the northern National Forest shoreline. TPWD and SJRA are committed to attacking the Giant Salvinia problem immediately.
After LCA Members donated over $500,000 in the past two years and the combined team of SJRA and LCA have spent well over $1 million to control invasive weeds on Lake Conroe, some good news is finally on the financial horizon. TPWD had secured a $150,000 grant from US Fish & Wildlife for Aquatic Plant Management (APM) on Lake Conroe. Working with LCA and SJRA, Montgomery County has agreed to increase their contribution from their $25,000 budget to $55,000. The US Forest Service has concurred that a significant portion of the Hydrilla infestation is located along the shores of the National Forest and, in response, has agreed to contribute $16,000. The Seven Coves Bass Club, in a somewhat unprecedented move for an angling organization, donated $5,000 for APM. Senator Robert Nichols continues to press Austin for financial assistance for our Texas lakes and reports that the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee has given TPWD not greater than two months to draft a proposal on how funds appropriated to TPWD by the State of Texas can be allocated for APM in Texas lakes. These sources will certainly help ease the financial burden placed on the resources of Lake residents, businesses and SJRA, but will not eliminate the need for funds from the LCA.
The LCA will initiate its annual Fund Raising Campaign in May in an effort to replenish its depleted bank account and provide a fund for future, emergency needs should infestations of Hydrilla or Giant Salvinia need immediate attention. We do not desire to be in a position where funds are needed and the LCA cannot respond. The fund raising process takes about two months – much too long for any form of “immediate” response. We hope that you will consider to continue to support the LCA and its efforts to assist all Lake users. You will see fund raising correspondence in the mail shortly as we send letters to over 15,000 Lake residents and local businesses. I’d like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank those 250+ contributors who responded to the LCA’s February, 2008 Emergency Fund Raising request which enabled the LCA to pay for this last batch of much-needed 32,000 White Amur added in March, 2008.
Again, thank you for your support of the LCA. The teamwork exhibited between residents, businesses, TPWD, SJRA, LCA, angling organizations, Montgomery County, State representatives and The Courier has enabled us to close in on reaching our goal of “40 acres or less of Hydrilla” and should serve as a guideline for other Texas lakes should they encounter infestations in the future. We hope you enjoy a beautiful Lake Conroe for years to come.
Mike Bleier, President
Lake Conroe Association