LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

Good day to all Lake Conroe residents and users. The LCA thought it time to provide you with an update on the Aquatic Plant Management status of the Lake.

2007 LAKE CONROE AQUATIC PLANT MANAGEMENT PLAN:

After numerous meetings between Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD), San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) and seventeen (17) representatives from residents, businesses and anglers, the 2007 Lake Conroe Aquatic Plant Management Plan has been finalized. The LCA endorses the basic approach of the Plan and its goals. Should you desire to read the Plan, the Plan is being added to our LCA website at “www: lakeconroeassociation.com”.

A key element of this Plan is its approach to deal with not only Hydrilla but also Giant Salvinia and Water Hyacinth (whereas the prior year’s Plan only dealt with Hydrilla). All of these noxious weeds pose a threat to our Lake.

The two (2) primary elements of the Plan deal with treatment options and timelines for action. For the discussion of specific treatment options, please refer to the Plan and subsequent discussion in this Update. To provide you information on “timelines for action”, please see the following (which includes current timetables as of this morning):

· Monday, March 19…..TPWD initiates its first 2007 survey of infested acres (weather permitting). The survey will take about a week. Data gathered will determine if additional white amur are to be added at this time.

· Week of March 19……SJRA initiates herbicide applications for Giant Salvinia and Water Hyacinth (weather permitting). This herbicide application will be cost-shared 50/50 between SJRA and the LCA.

· May…….TPWD conducts its second survey of infested acres. Data gathered will determine if additional white amur are to be added in June.

· July……TPWD conducts its third survey of infested acres. Data gathered will determine if additional white amur are to be added in August.

· September……TPWD conducts its final 2007 survey of infested acres. Data gathered will determine if additional white amur are to be added in October.

· September, 2007……date at which the Plan commits to have Giant Salvinia reduced to 40 acres or less (with no more than 5 contiguous acres). The latest survey estimated 300 acres of Giant Salvinia (which, under ideal growing conditions, doubles in mass every four days).

· March, 2008……date at which the Plan commits to have Hydrilla reduced to 40 acres or less. The latest survey (Sept, 2006) estimated 1,167 infested acres plus TPWD estimates that 700 acres of previously dry lakebed (in Sept, 2006) are now infested.

TREATMENT OF HYDRILLA:

Hydrilla will be treated using both White Amur and herbicides. While many residents and lake users prefer a treatment program which utilizes “more white amur now and no herbicides”, the Plan does not call for this approach.

White Amur will be added based on future TPWD surveys of infested acres. As you are aware, there is grave concern over the introduction of too many White Amur which may, once all Hydrilla is eaten, eat other native vegetation in the Lake (similar to what happened 25 years ago). TPWD will remain environmentally conservative in this approach to protect the Lake’s native vegetation. Having said this, in order for TPWD and SJRA to achieve the Plan objective of “40 acres or less of Hydrilla infested acres by March, 2008”, one of two things must happen. First, the White Amur already in the Lake would have to be sufficient to reduce Hydrilla (as proven through surveys). Or second, more White Amur will need to be added. SJRA and the LCA will cost-share the purchase of these White Amur on a 50/50 basis.

Herbicides will also be used to combat Hydrilla. Use of a product called “Sonar” may be used in cove-type areas where the product will not dissipate easily into the main body of the Lake (only 100 to 200 of infested Hydrilla acres of the Lake fit this description). This product takes 45 to 60 days of “contact time” to be effective; but when effective, actually kills both Hydrilla and Giant Salvinia by eliminating their ability to conduct photosynthesis.

More common to our Lake, a product called “Aquathol” will be used to “burn back” Hydrilla. This product provides almost-immediate results in removing “topped-out Hydrilla”, but does not kill the plant. This product has been used historically to clear access to the main body of the Lake and around boat docks. “Aquathol” will be used to reduce the total mass of Hydrilla in the Lake so that the White Amur have less Hydrilla to eat and, theoretically, can control Hydrilla faster and more effectively. Again, TPWD and SJRA endorse an approach of White Amur plus herbicides rather than introducing too many White Amur (and the potential effects on native vegetation).

Historically, SJRA has paid for herbicides. While the LCA understands the use of herbicides in treating Hydrilla and their potential value, we continue to evaluate the high cost of herbicides versus the addition of more White Amur. SJRA has requested the LCA to become a 50/50 cost-share partner in the purchase of herbicides, and the LCA has requested that SJRA provide the LCA with a cost estimate based on monies spent on herbicides last year by SJRA and projected for this year. The LCA cannot agree to cost-share on herbicides for the treatment of Hydrilla until it can evaluate these projected costs and make its own decision on whether these are monies well spent on behalf of our LCA members. This information will be available in the next couple of weeks.

IF YOU CATCH A WHITE AMUR, YOU MUST “RELEASE”:

In the event that you inadvertently catch a White Amur, the law states that you must “release” that White Amur immediately. Anyone caught by Game Wardens with White Amur on board their boat is subject to significant fines and penalties. In an effort to raise awareness of this issue and protect the White Amur you have helped to purchase, a Signage Campaign has been initiated to state the law and assist anglers in identifying a White Amur. TPWD will prepare the signage, and such signage will be posted at boat launches and marinas. Costs for this signage will be shared by TPWD, SJRA, the LCA and Texas BASS Federation (largest angling organization in Texas).

TREATMENT OF GIANT SALVINIA:

Giant Salvinia has not received the same attention level on Lake Conroe as has Hydrilla. Most likely, individuals do not focus as much on things that they cannot see (or, at least, see easily). With Hydrilla encroaching on your boat dock or hindering your ability to navigate through and enjoy the Lake, it’s only natural that Hydrilla has received the majority of the public’s and LCA’s attention. The LCA’s objective would be the reduction of Giant Salvinia to less than one acre by the end of the year.

Under ideal growing conditions, Giant Salvinia can DOUBLE in mass EVERY FOUR DAYS. Giant Salvinia was estimated to cover 300 acres in the Fall of 2006. Imagine if you will, a plant (again, under ideal growing conditions) covering 300 acres on April 1 which becomes 600 acres on April 5… which becomes 1,200 acres on April 9…. which becomes 2,400 acres on April 13. In this example, it only took 8 days to produce more infested Giant Salvinia acres than the total infested Hydrilla acres we had last year (1,167 acres in September, 2006). Giant Salvinia is a terrible, invasive, exotic plant which could destroy our Lake much faster than Hydrilla.

Why haven’t all of us been focusing on Giant Salvinia? The answer lies in its location. Giant Salvinia has primarily resided in the northern-most, uninhabited waters of Lake Conroe where waters are extremely shallow. With no inhabitants to be bothered by the plant and almost zero access by boat (or air boat), Giant Salvinia did not appear to present a direct threat to most of us. Further, the plant was “trapped” in its shallow waters with very little room to expand and limited nutrients and sunlight to utilize in its small space. This is not to say that Giant Salvinia hasn’t caused problems for lakefront residents as well, but such problems were limited (unless, of course, “your” lakefront was infested).

Why are we so concerned about Giant Salvinia now? With the heavy rains at the end of 2006 which raised the Lake level by over four (4) feet, Giant Salvinia was “flushed out” of its habitat and into the main body of Lake Conroe (unlike Hydrilla which anchors itself to the Lake floor, Giant Salvinia floats on the Lake surface). Most likely, all of our Lake’s shoreline has become invaded by very small amounts of Giant Salvinia. I know I can find small pieces of Giant Salvinia just about anywhere I go on the Lake. TPWD and SJRA concur with these findings.

With Giant Salvinia spread throughout the Lake now, 2007 could prove disastrous with no physical restrictions on its growth and unlimited nutrients and sunlight available to it across the Lake. The time to act is now!!! Giant Salvinia is not going to go away on its own. We can treat the 300 or so acres immediately, or we can treat multiples of those acres next month. And, of course, we can spend money now or spend multiples of that money next month.

If there is a good thing about Giant Salvinia, it can be killed with herbicide applications. Since it floats on the surface, herbicides can be applied directly on the plant. This differs greatly from Hydrilla in that Hydrilla grows from the bottom and only leaves the “topped out” portion exposed for direct herbicide applications. While many people resist the use of herbicides, the use of herbicides on Giant Salvinia is a necessity (no other solution, such as White Amur for Hydrilla, is known).

Herbicide applications on Giant Salvinia (and Water Hyacinth…..a floating plant like Giant Salvinia and often found living harmoniously with Giant Salvinia) begin next week. The maximum projected cost for this application is $80,000, and the LCA will share the cost on a 50/50 basis with SJRA.

You will soon see and hear Fund Raising efforts by the LCA regarding monies needed for the treatment of Giant Salvinia and Water Hyacinth. It should be noted that the LCA has obtained preliminary endorsement of this Fund Raising campaign from angling organizations such a Texas BASS Federation (anglers have always recognized the devastating effects of Giant Salvinia). Meetings are being held next week with BASS to work out a joint Fund Raising effort where support is requested from residents, businesses AND anglers. These Fund Raising efforts have been endorsed by TPWD and SJRA.

LCA BANK BALANCE AND FUND RAISING EFFORTS:

The LCA currently holds approximately $152,000 from previous Fund Raising efforts. From this balance, $32,000 will be paid next week for the LCA’s 50% portion of the 10,000 White Amur placed in the Lake over the past three (3) weeks. An estimated $40,000 will be paid during the next month for the LCA’s 50% portion of Giant Salvinia and Water Hyacinth herbicide applications. Deducting these two payments, the LCA will have a remaining balance of $80,000. When further additions of White Amur are approved in 2007 and funds are needed for potential Giant Salvinia herbicide applications, the LCA could find itself without the monies needed to return Lake Conroe to its previously enjoyable and safe condition. Therefore, Fund Raising continues to be a priority for the LCA….and you.

Previously unprecedented, the LCA will work with angling organizations to raise awareness and monies. As an LCA member, you should have received our request to write two (2) US Senators and ten (10) US Representatives informing them that funding is needed at a Federal level for Aquatic Plant Management (and “Thank You” very much if you followed through on the letters). The LCA will next work on a similar letter to State Senators and State Representatives to request funding at a State level for Aquatic Plant Management. I will travel to Austin this Wednesday at Senator Nichols request to present Texas’ needs for Aquatic Plant Management funding to approximately 55 State Representatives and to request their support for Senator Nichols’ Bill (which would authorize TPWD monies to be used for Aquatic Plant Management). The LCA participates in the Conroe Chamber of Commerce and tries to inform local businesses why our “weed problem” is their problem too. We speak at POA Meetings, sell tee shirts, present the issue to Montgomery County Commissioners Court and try every avenue to raise money that is presented to us. The US Forest Service, who owns 30% of Lake Conroe’s shoreline, has obtained preliminary approval to provide funding to SJRA for Aquatic Plant Management on Lake Conroe. And, of course, we’ll be asking for your support.

Thank you for listening, and I will present another President’s Update next month with new information on our progress and concerns. Until then, enjoy our Lake.

Mike Bleier

President, Lake Conroe Association