LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

We’re hoping our LCA Members are enjoying 2011 and dealing with the multitude of extreme weather conditions being thrown at us by Mother Nature.  We’ve seen repeated record temperatures throughout June and an extended drought that has browned our grasses, damaged our trees and dropped our lake level more than three (3) feet.  Would you like some good news from your friends at the Lake Conroe Association?

 First, invasive weeds such as Hydrilla, Giant Salvinia and Water Hyacinth are well under control on Lake Conroe.  The primary activity of the LCA since its inception in 1977 has been the review of invasive weeds on Lake Conroe and organizing funding raising activities to raise private money for the control of those invasive weeds.  Thanks to the generosity of our donors, monies contributed by the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA), and time invested by a combination of the LCA, SJRA and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, we find our reservoir to be virtually invasive weed-free at this time.  This certainly beats a 2008 which saw infestations of Hydrilla at 2,052 surface acres, Giant Salvinia of 628 surface acres and Water Hyacinth of 68 surface acres.  To fund this effective reduction of invasive weeds, our donors contributed in excess of $600,000 and SJRA “matched” this $600,000 in donations.  The primary use of these funds was the purchase of 123,765 White Amur Grass Carp to combat the explosive growth of Hydrilla.  It is estimated that 32,000 White Amur Grass Carp remain alive in Lake Conroe today.

Second, the study being conducted by Texas A&M University to review the economic and social impact of reducing lake levels on Lake Conroe is more than 50% complete at this time and should be completed by the end of 2011.  An important survey measuring Montgomery County resident opinions on reducing lake levels will be mailed out within the next month to 1 out of every 10 households within a 4 mile radius of Lake Conroe.  Should you receive this survey, please do your best to complete and return the survey on a timely basis as your opinion counts!  Our LCA donors contributed $66,000 towards the total study cost of $142,000.  The LCA believes the study will support our opinion that lowering lake levels (due to the ever-increasing water use in Montgomery County) will negatively affect our local economy and property values, and that alternative water sources for our County should be explored immediately.

Third, we’re NOT asking you for money this year!  We are all aware of how a slowing economy, budget shortfalls and increasing unemployment have hurt so many families and friends.  In light of how important a dollar is to everyone, the LCA Board of Directors has elected to pass on soliciting funds through our Annual LCA Membership Campaign and decided to extend 2011 LCA Membership to all 2010 donors.  We believe our current balance (checking account plus certificates of deposit) is sufficient to meet our financial needs for the upcoming year and see no need to request money from you at this time.   Of course, should an unforeseen emergency occur in 2011 in our community which falls under the objectives of the LCA, we would initiate a fund raiser specific to that cause.  We anticipate renewing our Annual LCA Membership Campaign again in 2012.   For any newcomers interested in joining the LCA or for current LCA Members preferring to make a tax-deductible donation in 2011, donations to our Section 501(c) (3) non-profit organization can be mailed to:  Lake Conroe Association, P.O. Box 376, Willis, Texas  77378.  By our mission statement, the LCA “acts as a civic organization for the purpose of over-seeing, directing, initiating and promulgating programs that directly affect the control, use, and enjoyment of Lake Conroe for the benefit of Montgomery County, Texas.”

With a current lake level of 197.71 feet (over 3 feet below average pool elevation 201.0) and 2011 rainfall totals of only 6 inches (compared to an average 24 inches of rain by this date), we all look forward to some extended rain showers to replenish our reservoir, feed our grasses, plants and trees, and drop our temperatures.  We can all hope, can’t we?  We wish you and your families an enjoyable and prosperous summer of 2011.

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association

SJRA joins the hunt for brackish water

Posted: Friday, March 11, 2011 11:04 pm

By Howard Roden | 0 comments

The San Jacinto River Authority is joining other water systems around Lake Conroe in the hunt for brackish water.

Days after the municipal utility districts in April Sound and Bentwater received tentative approval for a permit to pump water from the Catahoula Formation, the SJRA announced Thursday it would consider ways to “effectively incorporate brackish groundwater” into its countywide water plan.

The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District has a mandated 30 percent reduction in groundwater consumption by Jan. 1, 2016, for those water users who pump 10 million gallons or more annually.

If successful in the search for a sufficient supply of brackish water, the SJRA could save money for the participants of its Groundwater Reduction Plan and slow the draw of surface water from Lake Conroe, SJRA Deputy General Manager Jace Houston said.

The SJRA’s plan would make brackish groundwater part of a portfolio that could include implementation of wastewater reuse and water conservation, Houston stated in a release.

One advantage is a partnership between SJRA and some of its GRP participants to drill brackish wells. The city of Willis is exploring such an option.

“We’re looking long-term at running a surface water pipe to Willis,” Houston said. “If we can put a well up there instead of a pipe, we can avoid that cost.”

Ken Conatser, representing April Sound’s MUDs 3 and 4, went before LSGCD board members Tuesday seeking approval of a proposed operating permit for an alternative water well not to exceed 350 million gallons annually.

LSGCD engineer Mark Lowry recommended delaying a decision until the board’s April 12 meeting, providing more time to study the data from April Sound and Bentwater (MUD 18). Bentwater MUD officials had sought a brackish water permit not to exceed the 125 million gallons the final half of the year.

“We don’t know whether the amount of water (in the Catahoula) is sustainable. There may not be enough, but that is their problem,” Lowry said. “There is nothing I see that would prevent (LSGCD) from issuing a permit.”

Conatser is confident the Catahoula’s water production will have long-term sustainability for the GRP for April Sound and the city of Montgomery. A well drilled from 2,200 feet to 2,800 feet produced drinkable water at 2,500 gallons per minute.

Most of the wells drilled into the Catahoula south of Texas 105 at deeper depths brought forth hot, salty water, Houston said. Conatser said a test well drilled to 3,200 feet got similar results.

The SJRA plans to conduct its own long-term studies on the Catahoula’s viability.

“We still need a lot more information to determine if this is a viable, long-term supply,” stated Arthur Faiello, director of Public Works for the city of Willis. “Developing a well in partnership with everyone else in the SJRA GRP protects us all from the risks associated with testing this unproven supply.”

Interest grows in a brackish water source deep underground

Municipal utility districts and major water users in Montgomery County concerned about the need to find alternative sources of water are digging deep for a solution — and they think they have found it.

A trio of water suppliers approved by the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District are tapping into the Catahoula Formation aquifer as a new resource for providing water to their customers now and in the future. Officials expect that number to grow.

“A study has been commissioned to determine the long-term viability of the Catahoula aquifer,” said Kathy Turner Jones, general manager of the LSGCD. “We want to determine the quantity, quality and suitability of the aquifer as a water resource.”

Turner said wells have been approved for Municipal Utility District 18 in Bentwater and Stanley Lake MUD and UD 3 in April Sound. Panorama Village has been approved for a test well — and Turner said she has heard rumors of interest from other cities and organizations.

Interest in the Catahoula is especially keen because the LSGCD has, for now, determined that water coming out of it will be considered an alternate resource and exempted from a mandate to reduce groundwater usage by 30 percent by Jan. 1, 2016.

To accomplish such a reduction, 85 major water users representing 135 water systems in Montgomery County banded together under a program developed by the San Jacinto River Authority. Jace Houston, deputy general manager of administration for SJRA, said the plan covers 80 percent of the total amount of water used in the county.

Ken Conatser, general manager of UD 3, was critical of the SJRA plan — saying the plan, which requires a commitment through 2045, is outrageously expensive.

“Our projected cost is millions less than it would be if we joined the SJRA program,” he said. “The Catahoula is a cost-efficient alternative.”

Original test wells drilled to 3,200 feet produced poor quality water, but at 2,800 feet — below the Evangeline, Chicot and Jasper aquifers that provide freshwater for Montgomery County — was significantly better.

Conatser said the water is low on dissolved solids and warmer than expected — around 102 degrees — but is quite acceptable. Standard chlorine treatment water from the Catahoula is potable and a viable source for human consumption. And Conatser said water from the aquifer is abundant and plentiful.

Interest in the Catahoula has not gone unnoticed by other utility districts. The SJRA is interested in tapping into the aquifer as an alternative source that would lower its need to rely on surface water — reducing the amount of water it would have to pump out of Lake Conroe beginning in 2016.

Houston said the SJRA is working with the city of Willis on a possible program that would incorporate tapping into the Catahoula aquifer as an alternative resource.

Jones acknowledged LSGCD currently considers the Catahoula exempt from the 30 percent reduction in groundwater reduction required of major users by 2016 but said the agency still maintains supervisory control over the use of this or any water resource in the county.

“The study will go a long way to determining the future use of water from the Catahoula aquifer,” she said. “The district reserves the right to monitor or limit production in the future if it is in the best interest of the public.”

That’s worrisome for Conatser because the members of the LSGCD board are appointed rather than elected. He expressed concern that board members have no consequences for inappropriate actions. Still, he supports the concept of a local agency responsible for local water management.

“I’d rather fight the battles here in Montgomery County than in Austin,” Conatser said.

For more information about the LSGCD, visit www.lonestargcd.org.

Lake Conroe MUDs strike the mother lode on new water

By Howard Roden City editor

In the search for an alternative water supply, the residents of April Sound and Bentwater appear to have struck the mother lode.

Results from two test wells drilled by Municipal Utility Districts 3 and 4 in April Sound show the water found in the Catahoula Formation of the Gulf Coast Aquifer to be “very usable,” and that the quantity available is “far more than anyone expected,” said Ken Conatser, general manager of MUD 3.

Meanwhile, similar results were reported by officials with MUD 18 in Bentwater from its test well.

“We’ve got good quantity and quality,” board member Chris Uzelmeier said.

The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District board voted Tuesday to allow the water systems to begin construction of their production wells but withheld approval to begin pumping until the LSGCD’s next meeting in March.

Conatser oversees the joint venture intended to provide MUDs 3 and 4 with a source of water other than the San Jacinto River Authority’s Groundwater Reduction Plan. While a majority of the large-volume water systems in Montgomery County have signed on with the river authority’s program, Bentwater and April Sound are among a few Lake Conroe communities looking for a more cost-effective method to achieve a 30-percent reduction in groundwater consumption by 2016.

MUDs 3 and 4 have pursued a search for so-called “brackish” water in the Catahoula, which is located below the three aquifers currently used for the county’s groundwater. But Conatser said tests show the quality of water in the Catahoula — measured by the amount of total dissolved solids — is well within acceptable limits.

“Plus, it’s a whole lot less expensive than what it would cost to join the SJRA plan,” he said.

Scott Weisinger, of Weisinger Water Well and a board member with the LSGCD, was hired by Conatser to drill the 6-inch-diameter test wells. They achieved a flow of 150 gallons per minute.

“It gave us an indication of a good supply,” Weisinger said.

A 20-inch diameter production well has been installed and will pump at speeds of 600 gallons per minute to 2,000 gpm.

The test wells also revealed that the static water level of the Catahoula is three to five times higher than that of the Jasper, Chico and Evangeline aquifers, the primary sources of water in Montgomery County, Weisinger said.

Static water level is the level of groundwater when a pump is not operating.

While the static level ranges from 300 to 500 feet below the ground in the traditional aquifers, Weisinger said water from the Catahoula test well was only 100 feet from the surface.

“It’s almost artesian,” he said.

MUDs 3 and 4 have an agreement with the city of Montgomery in which they will over-convert their water production so Montgomery can attain its 30 percent reduction.

Although MUD 18 was the first water system to drill for an alternative supply, it is not likely to begin pumping until this fall or later, Uzelmeier said.

“We still have to issue bonds to finance the project,” he said. “We took the risk and it paid off.”

Howard Roden can be reached at hroden@hcnonline.com

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

Using the Lake Envronment to Improve Boat Launching Service

Still Putting Boats in the Water

As more and more public and private boat launch locations become unusable, E-Z Boat began deepening its North Ramp by extending it another 4 feet into the lake. Although the channel to the lake has too many high spots for much continued use beyond today’s level (5.5 ft low), the ramp will provide an extremely protected and calm boat launching ramp on the main body of Lake Conroe. The opportunity to go 5 feet down may seem mundane at first, but add the 5 and a half feet the lake is already down and you are 10 feet below lake level.

Dredging and Launch Maintenance

E-Z’s South Ramp got a facelift last month with a new breakwater to block prevailing southerly winds of summer. Always a deep ramp, boats are still being
launched for tenants of the storage facility. In fact, new dredging has begun to add another 3 foot capablity to the channel extending a couple hundred feet plus to reach the lake. With the current rate of water level drop, this may keep the ramp open for a few more weeks.

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

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY LAKE LEVEL SURVEY:

The Lake Conroe Association (LCA) has been working with Texas A&M University and Montgomery County to assess the impact of projected lake level fluctuations resulting from the San Jacinto River Authority’s (SJRA) Groundwater Reduction Plan.  Thanks to the generosity of LCA Members, the LCA was able to contribute $62,000 towards this $142,000 project.  Lake Conroe is certainly a treasured amenity for residents of Montgomery County, and reduced lake levels clearly impact use of the lake, local business success and residential property values.

Aside from evaluating engineering studies commissioned by SJRA to estimate the effects of removing water from Lake Conroe, an important element of the Texas A&M Study is a survey of local residents.  Texas A&M mailed invitations to participate in the Lake Conroe Survey in late July to a one-in-ten random sample of residents within four miles of the lake.  It is very important to respond so that A&M’s findings can incorporate our perspectives into estimates of the potential impact of the proposed SJRA Groundwater Reduction Plan.  These findings will help our leaders make choices that are sensitive to our perspectives and concerns as they address the serious water issues in our County.

(1)   If you are one of those who have already responded, thank you very much!

(2)   If you received an invitation but have not been able to respond, it’ not too late.  Go to the website (hrrc.arch.tamu.edu/lakeconroe) and enter your unique identifier from the post card you received in the mail.  If you’ve misplaced the post card, you can call the research team at Texas A&M at 979-845-7284 and they will be happy to get you started.

(3)   IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO TAKE THE SURVEY BUT DID NOT RECEIVE AN INVITATION, you can send your e-mail address to Dr. George Rogers of Texas A&M at GRogers@TAMU.edu with a “subject line” of “Lake Conroe Study”.  He will accumulate these and forward them to the research team to invite you to participate in an “interested parties” survey that is separate from the random sample.  This “interested parties” survey is your opportunity to share your perspectives and be heard.  The survey will ask for your street address so that the data can be geo-coded, and the address will be subsequently deleted to assure anonymity.

Usually, the LCA asks you to make a donation and WE do the work.  This time, we aren’t asking for money but, rather, a small amount of your time.  We can’t respond to a survey requesting YOUR opinions.  We REALLY need your participation at this time!  PLEASE HELP US HELP YOU!

WATER MEETING CALLED BY JUDGE SADLER:

I was asked to attend a water meeting yesterday by Montgomery County Judge Sadler.  Attendees included representatives from The City of Houston, Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District, SJRA, Region H Water Planning Committee, Montgomery County, The City of Conroe, Lake Conroe Communities Network (LCCN) and various interested parties.  I thought you would appreciate an update of what I interpreted was presented in that meeting.  I list the following:

1)      Current lake level on Lake Conroe is 196.92 (normal pool is 201.0).  The lowest Lake Conroe has ever reached is a level of 196.

2)      The City of Houston started removing water from Lake Conroe on Tuesday, August 16, 2011.  The estimated rate of removal equates to approximately one half inch per day, or fifteen inches per month.  Without significant rainfall to modify their plans, The City of Houston expects to remove a total of three feet of water by the end of 2011.  As two thirds owner of Lake Conroe’s water supply, The City of Houston will pay nothing to SJRA for this water.

3)      The City of Houston’s contract with SJRA for water removal is based on a calendar year.  They can remove two thirds of 100,000 acre feet of water (or approximately 3 feet of water) in any calendar year.  Therefore, if significant rainfall does not modify their plans,  The City of Houston COULD start withdrawing water from Lake Conroe under its 2012 allotment starting January 1, 2012.  At one half inch per day, The City of Houston COULD remove another 3 feet of water from Lake Conroe by the end of March, 2012.  Since water use reduces during the Winter season, it would be more likely that The City of Houston removes that 3 feet of water by mid-2012 and not the end of March, 2012. 

4)      Summer evaporation rates approximate one third to one half inch per day, and total approximately 4 feet per year.

5)      While weather forecasters are certainly not always accurate, climatologists do not foresee significant rain for our area for the balance of 2011.  Further, with an estimated 50% accuracy, climatologists predict a 2012 drought similar to that we are experiencing in 2011.

6)      In big, round numbers, our lake level could reach a level of 190 (or eleven feet below normal pool) by the end of 2011.  The math used would be:  Current pool of 197… less 3 feet of water removed by The City of Houston… less 2 feet of water evaporated in the second half of Summer/Fall… less 1 ½ feet of water which could be sold by SJRA (their one third of 100,000 acre feet)… less ½ foot of water to account for the surface of Lake Conroe reducing as the water level drops (similar to a bowl….more surface at the top of the bowl and reducing surface as you approach the bottom of the bowl).

7)      Looking for the most time-effective solution to our water shortage, the individuals attending Judge Sadler’s meeting strongly encouraged immediately drilling further test wells into the Catahoula Aquifer.  Determining the quality and sustainability of this aquifer is of utmost importance in evaluating our water options.

8)      Judge Sadler also encouraged the Region H Water Planning Committee to move forward with evaluating the feasibility of building another reservoir in Montgomery County to supplement the waters of Lake Conroe.  Previous requests of this nature in 2010 were denied by Region H.  With Region H entering a new 5-year planning cycle beginning in 2012, Judge Sadler pointed out that ignoring this request for another 5 years would be unacceptable given water shortages across our area.

9)      Judge Sadler further requested that Region H provide a thorough financial review comparing the costs of all water options available to our County including a new reservoir, buying water from the Trinity River Authority and a host of other potential options.

10)  While only briefly discussed due to time constraints (priority topics were The City of Houston’s water withdrawl, projected lake levels, use of the Catahoula Aquifer, and Region H’s review of a new reservoir), other water topics of interest included conservation, water restrictions, use of treated effluent for golf course and residential irrigation, and mandatory use of treated effluent incorporated into the development of new communities for irrigation and water features.  

Thank you for your support of the Lake Conroe Association and your interest in our Lake Conroe community.

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association

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!

Houston soon may tap Lake Conroe for water supply

Falling lake levels raise concern

Without rain soon, Houston will take emergency step to ensure water plant can still operate

By CINDY HORSWELL HOUSTON CHRONICLE

Aug. 4, 2011, 5:18AM

Along the shores of Lake Houston and Lake Conroe, many landlocked boat docks lead to nowhere while grassy islands and sandbars sprout where water once flowed.

Pieces of an old railroad, long hidden by the ample waters of Lake Houston, are suddenly visible.

Now both lakes may soon enter uncharted territory as the incessant drought and searing temperatures continue to deplete these two reservoirs’ precious water supplies.

And things could grow drastically worse if no significant rain falls in the next week and a half, authorities warn. Each lake was built on the San Jacinto River as a source of drinking water for Houston.

The city of Houston this week has alerted the San Jacinto River Authority that it may have to take an emergency step that has not been done for two decades – order Lake Conroe to release up to 150 million gallons of water a day from its dam. The water would then flow downstream to Lake Houston, so that reservoir would remain deep enough to assure the city’s water purification plant there can continue operating.

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.

Conroe’s current lake level is 197.3 feet above mean sea level, which is 3.7 feet below normal. The lowest the level has ever dropped is 5 feet below normal. That record was set 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.

With water levels nearly 7 feet below the normal 44-foot elevation on Lake Houston, boaters are more often hitting stumps or becoming stranded on sandbars that have surfaced.

Officer Gary Crawford with the Houston Police Department’s Lake Patrol pointed to hundreds of old pilings now visible from a 2-mile railroad trestle crossing the lake from Huffman to Walden.

“We’re working to cut them down below the waterline,” he said. “But we could never tackle all the stumps. It would take an army to do that.”

Different kind of summer

Duesen Park has also been forced because of insufficient water to close ramps that used to provide sailboats and kayaks access to Lake Houston. Residents around Lake Conroe are likewise unhappy that their lake level is hurting.

“The number of residents using the lake this summer seems to have dropped slightly because of the low level,” said Texas Parks and Wildlife game warden Brannon Meinkowsky.

The shallower north end, he said, appears to be suffering the most.

“I don’t have a lake now,” complained Mike Bleier, president of the Lake Conroe Association. “I used to have lake-front property. But now I have a forest.”

He cannot launch a boat or jet ski from his dock and gave up recreational use of the lake for the summer.

“It’s dangerous to be out there if you’re not familiar with it,” he said. “Your boat prop can easily hit a stump or a sandbar now.”

Nonetheless, Gary Lewis, TowboatsUS operator, said the lake continues to be populated by boaters.

“I don’t see it as all detrimental, except for those who have boathouses that aren’t usable,” Lewis said. “I just see it as having more exposed sandy beaches to play on.”

To secure the city’s water supply, Houston taxpayers years ago paid for the construction of both lakes on the San Jacinto River. 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.

“The water level on Lake Houston cannot fall below 37 feet or the water plant’s intake pumps won’t work,” explained Alvin Wright, Houston’s public works spokesman.

Down 3½ inches a week

The water level on Lake Houston currently stands at 37.6 feet, dangerously close to the mark that triggers withdrawals from Lake Conroe. The level is dropping by as much as 3½ inches a week.

“We’re experiencing much higher water usage, while water pipes are also breaking from the extreme heat,” Wright said. “Usually we have 250 repairs pending, but now we’ve got 600 repairs.”

Plus, the municipal water supply is dwindling because of greater evaporation from triple-digit highs and no rain to replenish the losses.

“Houston’s mayor and public works director will make the call to order any release from Lake Conroe. We’re still hoping that won’t happen,” said Wright, who said the city wants to avoid dipping into its reserves until absolutely necessary.

However, he stressed that Lake Livingston, Houston’s main drinking water supply, is nearly full, and the city has sufficient reserves to last two years.

cindy.horswell@chron.com

City of Houston May Request Water from Lake Conroe – SJRA Press Release

City of Houston May Request Water from Lake Conroe

Although an official notice has not yet been received, the City of Houston has given preliminary indications that it will soon request a measured release of water from its two-thirds share of the water rights in Lake Conroe to meet the City’s operational needs in Lake Houston. An exact quantity and start date is not yet known, but initial estimates are that the City might request a release of up to 150 million gallons per day beginning sometime within the next two weeks. This equates to approximately half an inch per day.

Engineering staff for the City of Houston have indicated that the purpose of the release is not to raise the level of Lake Houston but simply to stabilize the lake level for operational needs at the City’s Northeast Water Purification Plant. The amount of water requested from Lake Conroe would be adjusted daily based on weather conditions in the Lake Houston watershed, and the releases would likely continue until the current drought conditions begin to abate.

Lake Conroe was built as a joint venture between the City of Houston and the San Jacinto River Authority, with the City owning two-thirds of the water rights in the reservoir, and the SJRA owning the other one-third. In September of 2009, the SJRA and the City executed a long-term water supply contract that secured the SJRA’s right to use all of the water in Lake Conroe for the SJRA’s countywide Groundwater Reduction Plan (GRP) program. The GRP program will not need a significant amount of the City’s water until at least 2025, and during those years in which the City’s water is not used by the GRP, the contract allows the City to call on the water for its own short-term uses on a year-by-year basis.

Based on current weather patterns and inflows into Lake Houston, the SJRA does not currently see an immediate need to make any releases from the SJRA’s one-third share of Lake Conroe to meet the needs of its own downstream industrial customers; however, if severe drought conditions continue, it may become necessary for the SJRA to release a small amount of water in addition to the City of Houston’s release. If this were to occur, the SJRA’s release would be relatively small – probably in the range of 10 to 15 million gallons per day (approximately 1/20 of an inch per day or one and a half inches per month). If such releases are required, the SJRA would reimburse the GRP program for the appropriate amount of reservation fees that were paid for the SJRA’s share of the water in Lake Conroe.

In terms of impact to the level of Lake Conroe, the estimated release of up to half an inch per day would equate to three or four inches per week. During the hot summer months, this is approximately equal to the amount of water that evaporates from the reservoir. Lakefront property owners with boat slips should monitor water levels and take appropriate action as needed to trailer their boats or store them in marinas until normal rainfall patterns return and lake levels begin to rise.

For additional information, please visit the SJRA’s website at www.sjra.net. To receive updates via the internet or email, you can link to our Facebook page from our website or register your email address by signing up using the field in the lower right corner of our home page.}

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.

Search for water must continue

Even with a negotiated contract between the city of Conroe and the San Jacinto River Authority that secures Conroe’s access to water in Lake Conroe for up to 80 years, city officials told The Courier recently that the search for future water resources must continue.

For that reason, we welcome the decision of the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District to give large volume groundwater users the option of looking for water source alternatives to Lake Conroe surface water.

The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District recently approved changes to its district rules that give large volume groundwater users, those groups that pump at least 10 million gallons annually, the opportunity to look for alternative water sources in place of the multi-billion dollar surface-water project proposed by the San Jacinto River Authority.

As a result, representatives from several of the municipal utility districts located around Lake Conroe are looking at their options, particularly the potential for obtaining and treating brackish water. MUD No. 18, the water provider for Bentwater, already has advertised for a contractor to drill a test well to determine if there’s enough brackish groundwater underneath the Gulf Coast Aquifer to make a project viable. Brackish groundwater is located at greater depths than water from the aquifer and must be treated using reverse osmosis, all of which adds to the costs of the water as an alternative source.

Still, some believe brackish water could become an affordable alternative to tying into a surface water treatment and distribution system utilizing Lake Conroe surface water.

The negotiated agreements which now tie Conroe and The Woodlands to Lake Conroe’s surface water were an important step to ensuring this county has the water it needs for the future.

But the test well that MUD No. 18 plans to drill could open a door for other possibilities for water in the future. Whether brackish water is a viable option is a worthwhile question, and as Montgomery County looks to its future water needs, it’s worth answering.

Hunt for brackish water begins

By Howard Roden | comments

LAKE CONROE – Now that they’ve been given the green light to explore for an alternative water supply, several municipal utility districts in Montgomery County are starting to map out their strategies.

Representatives from several of the MUDs located around Lake Conroe are planning to meet and discuss their options. Meanwhile, MUD No. 18, the water provider for Bentwater, already has advertised for a contractor to drill a test well to determine if there’s enough brackish groundwater underneath the Gulf Coast Aquifer to make the project a viable one.

The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District last week approved changes to its district rules that give large volume groundwater users, those groups that pump at least 10 million gallons annually, the opportunity to look for alternative water sources in place of the multi-billion dollar surface-water project proposed by the San Jacinto River Authority.

The SJRA’s plans calls for construction of a surface-water treatment plant on Lake Conroe, with the water piped to the city of Conroe, The Woodlands Township and selected areas along Interstate 45. The over-conversion of surface water to those areas will allow the rest of Montgomery County water users to continue pumping groundwater, but at 70 percent of the volume consumed in the 2009 calendar year.

In addition to Bentwater, the municipal utility districts in the Lake Conroe communities of Walden and April Sound think they have a cost-effective solution to SJRA’s plan by pumping the brackish groundwater located underneath the Gulf Coast Aquifer.

The Texas Commission of Environmental Quality, and other governmental entities, had included the Catahoula Formation as part of the Gulf Coast Aquifer. However, the LSGCD board amended its definitions last week to exclude the Catahoula as a part of the Gulf Coast Aquifer.

“We’re thankful that Lone Star saw the light,” said Roy McCoy, a LSGCD board member and president of MUD No. 8 (Walden). “This opens up the possibly for another source of water, not only for the residents in Walden but potentially for other residents around the county.”

McCoy acknowledges brackish groundwater, groundwater that, by definition, includes at least total dissolved solids concentrated in excess of 1,500 parts per million is an unprove source for water that has a great deal of potential as cities and communities search for water in future years.

“We’re in a very good positions that, in time, brackish groundwater could become an important part of the landscape,” he said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity.”

McCoy said drilling deeper to locate the brackish water, and its treatment process (reserve osmosis), could be more expensive up front, but those costs could be more than offset when compared to the expense of installing massive pipelines, like the ones proposed to Conroe and The Woodlands in the SJRA project.

“It could save Montgomery County millions,” McCoy said.

Of course, the major question is just how much brackish water exists in the Catahoula Formation, which is located below the freshwater aquifers of the Chico, Evangeline and Jasper aquifers.

MUD No. 18 engineer Bill Kotlan said the brackish water is located in a strata approximately 2,500 feet in depth.

Based on previous experience with gas and oil wells in the areas, the Catahoula releases water at a rate of 900 to 1,100 gallons per minute, he said.

“The real question is the volume of water that is down there,” Kotlan said.

Kotlan anticipates it will take four months to drill the test well and analyze the data before reaching a conclusion. Cost of the test well is estimated at $500,000, he said.

The municipal utilities districts of April Sound and Walden may join Bentwater on its test well to reduce costs.

“We well may decide to drill our own test well, or we may join up to save money,” McCoy said of Walden. “It’s a decision we’ll have to make.”

Kotlan said Bentwater was prepared to drop its test well in January, but was delayed by changes in the LSGCD’s district deadlines. MUD No. 18 wants to have its testing completed in time to join the SJRA’s Groundwater Reduction Plan if its test well fails to show enough brackish groundwater is available, Kotlan said.

“If there’s no other option, there’s always the SJRA MUD No. 3,” General Manager Ken Conatser said.

Grass Carp (White Amur)

Finding the most effective ballance between having enough grass carp in the Lake and not reducing the vegitation down to nothing is a real challenge for all of those wanting to find that perfect balance. The current situation is that we have to many large grass carp in the Lake for a proper balance of vegitation, oxygen, fish spawning areas, water quality, etc.

The size and number of grass carp currently in the Lake is starting to have an effect on the water clarity. We had a mud hole a few years back and there are signs we are starting to get a lot more stained water in all areas of the Lake. No one wants that to happen.

The effect the fish are having on fishing and spawning beds has been critical. Lake Conroe is know as one of the best catfish fishing lakes in Texas and now it is impossible to bait a specific area or chum when fishing for catfish. The grass carp move in and take over the area. Last year we had four “ShareLunker” bass caught on Lake Conroe, this past season we had NONE!

The grass carp on Lake Conroe are still protected and must be released immediately when caught when fishing for other fish; however, there is a realization on the part of all parties that the population of grass carp, the size of the fish and the fact that they are now eating anything is causing a problem for the Lake.

This fall there is going to be a ‘grass carp’ fishing tournament that will be monitored by the Texas Parks & Wildlife. There purpose of the tournament is to ‘thin the heard’ so to speak. The tournament will allow some of the large grass carp to be removed from the Lake in a systimatic manner with good record keeping concerning the number of fish removed and the size of the fish removed.

There will be more information posted on this site as well as on the Lake Conroe Guide Fishing Report as more information is available. We are very fortunate to have the JSRA, TP&W, Lake Conroe Association and others work together to find solutions to this problem and take the necessary action to both keep the hydrilla in check and provide the necessary vegitation in the Lake for proper water and fish management.

We will keep you posted! Papa John

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

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

Walden MUDs plan to purchase share of Huntsville wastewater

By Howard Roden | comment

The two municipal utility districts that provide water to Walden residents have negotiated a contract with Huntsville to acquire a portion of the city’s wastewater return that flows into Lake Conroe.

Should MUD Nos. 8 and 9 ultimately strike a deal with the San Jacinto River Authority for access to the reservoir, Walden’s water needs could be assured through 2035, several community leaders announced during a presentation at the SJRA meeting Wednesday at the Lone Star Convention Center in Conroe.

The two MUDs are among the approximately 197 large-volume groundwater users in Montgomery County required to reduce their groundwater usage at least 30 percent by Jan. 1, 2016. LVGUs are defined by the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District as water systems that pump at least 10 millions gallons annually.

The majority of those water users agreed to join the SJRA Groundwater Reduction Plan, which calls for the construction of a surface water treatment plant near Lake Conroe. Most of the water will be piped to the city of Conroe and The Woodlands area in order for the other water systems to achieve the mandated reduction.

Several cities and governmental entities, such as Panorama Village, Shenandoah, Bentwater and April Sound, are pursuing the idea of drilling for brackish water in the deepest strata of the Gulf Coast Aquifer. However, the Walden MUDs opted to go in a different direction, settling on “indirect reuse” of their wastewater return flow, supplemented by wastewater reuse from an additional source, said Mike Irlbeck, of NRS Engineering in Austin.

The MUDs’ jointly operated wastewater treatment plant presently discharges an average of 350,000 gallons per day into Lake Conroe. The plant is permitted up to 900,000 gallons per day.

Under the MUDs’ own proposed GRP, the contract with the city of Huntsville provides Walden with up to 2 million gallons per day from Huntsville’s two existing wastewater treatment plants.

Huntsville is discharging 1.6 million gallons per day into the San Jacinto River upstream from Lake Conroe. The city has a combined discharge permit of 4.1 million gallons per day.

“Combined with the MUDs’ own return flow, these two water supply sources are sufficient to meet the MUDs’ conversion obligation under the LSGCD rules,” Irlbeck said.

Over the next 40 years, the Walden proposal will conserve more than 66,000 acre-feet of groundwater, according to the MUDs’ presentation.

“We’ve worked hard for two years to try and find an alternative that was good for our constituents,” said Linda Wilson, president of MUD No. 9. “Our project reduces groundwater use by a tremendous amount. The SJRA would never have to run a pipeline to us.”

At first, the MUDs proposed a direct-use approach to wastewater by using that source of water for irrigation purposes, such as golf courses.

“But we couldn’t do enough to make it economically feasible,” Roy McCoy, MUD No. 8 president said. “We think there are risks in both projects, but we think the risks are less using this project.”

The MUDs made their presentation to the SJRA Board of Directors last week seeking approval of an intake and “passage” of the MUDs’ water rights through Lake Conroe. SJRA board member David Kleimann commended Walden leaders for their project.

“You have done a patriotic thing, and I thank you for it,” he said.

Kleimann said the SJRA has made a “monopoly” out of the water in Lake Conroe, and criticized the agency for providing grants with money from taxpayers.

His remarks didn’t go unchallenged.

“Can you tell me what taxpayer money it (the SJRA) does receive?” said Joe Turner, SJRA board vice president.

“I just told you,” Kleimann said.

Following the meeting, Kleimann stressed that the SJRA is a governmental entity that should be working for the people.

Turner said the SJRA does not have any taxing authority and derives its revenue from the sale of water and other fees.

“He (Kleimann) is misleading the people. To say we’re a monopoly isn’t true,” he said.

But how much the Walden MUDs will pay the SJRA for water fees is up for debate. After the board convened from a heated argument in executive session, board president Gary Montgomery told MUD leaders to “continue talking” with SJRA staff with the hope of reaching an agreement on water fees.

Whatever that amount, Montgomery said he wanted the final figure to be “well-discussed and defensible in hard, black-and-white terms.”

Montgomery said he wants the agreement with the Walden MUDs to be approved by the SJRA’s GRP Advisory Committee.

Wilson said she was “thrilled” the SJRA board did not say no to the MUDs’ request. But she and McCoy did not rule out the possibility of legal action if talks reached an impasse.

Howard Roden can be reached at hroden@hcnonline.com

Montgomery officials to select water plan

By Brad Meyer Courier staff

MONTGOMERY — Montgomery officials recognize they need a partner to comply with a state agency’s mandate for future water conservation; the question is which potential resource best fits the city’s needs and budget.

Among the topics Montgomery City Council members are expected to review when they meet this evening is how the city will comply with a directive from the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District to decrease the city’s dependence on water drawn from traditional wells.

“It’s a very important issue to cities in the region,” said Bill Kotlan, acting city administrator. “Water is essential to the growth — or stability — of every community, and it’s going to be increasingly difficult and expensive to maintain its availability.”

Officials had a workshop Monday evening to discuss the city’s options for potable water based on the LSGCD directive mandating a 30 percent reduction of groundwater use by the end of 2015. Options include accessing surface water from Lake Conroe and other sources, drilling into the unregulated Catahoula Aquifer or joining forces with other water users.

Considering Montgomery’s size and projected growth, achieving an independent solution to the directive is economically impractical, Kotlan said. The city has three primary options.

One option is working with or purchasing credits from Municipal Utility District 18 in the Bentwater area. The group plans to drill a well into the brackish water of the Catahoula Aquifer and treat it.

A similar arrangement is available with MUDs 3 and 4 in the April Sound area. The third option is participating in a large group program organized and coordinated by the San Jacinto River Authority.

“All of the programs have significant costs and inherent risks associated with them,” Kotlan said. “We have some tough decisions to make and we have to start making them now.”

Of the three potential solutions, Kotlan said working with the SJRA offers the greatest security and simplicity, but at a premium cost and a long-term commitment.

“The April Sound MUD offers a rate 20 percent lower than whatever rate SJRA establishes for its participants,” he said. “We also have the option of opting out in 2016 if other cost-efficient alternatives become available.”

At stake isn’t just cost, but risk, Kotlan said. City officials will have to make a decision based on uncertainties associated with all of the potential options. Kotlan favors the cost efficiency of the MUDs 3 and 4 program but understands the security and simplicity of the SJRA plan.

“It’s a tough choice,” he said. “It’s an issue with a lot of complexity.”

The Montgomery City Council meets at 7 tonight at Montgomery City Hall, located at 100 Old Plantersville Road.

Brad Meyer can be reached at bmeyer@hcnonline.com.

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

Lake Conroe Association Completes Funding of Texas A&M Lake Study of Economic Impacts of Lower Lake Conroe Water Levels Planned by San Jacinto River Authority

Raising money in today’s economy is never easy.  When the Lake Conroe Association (LCA), Lake Conroe Communities Network (LCCN), Montgomery County and the City of Conroe desired to engage Texas A&M University for an independent study on drawing water from Lake Conroe, it came with a hefty $142,000 price tag.  The LCA kicked off the fund raising effort three months ago by agreeing to contribute the first $50,000 towards the study.  When all potential donors had completed making (or passed on making) their donations, the collective efforts fell $16,000 short.  Understanding the importance of completing this study, the LCA agreed this week to make up the $16,000 shortfall and raised its total contribution to $66,000.

As previously reported, the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District (LSGCD) and San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) have determined that water will be drawn from Lake Conroe starting in 2016 to meet the ever-growing demand on Montgomery County’s water supply.  SJRA, with a virtual monopoly on water supply in our County, engaged the engineering firm of Freece & Nichols to review the effects on Lake Conroe’s water levels and subsequently concluded that “the effects would be minimal”.  While this may be true, some question the accuracy of this conclusion and believe a second, independent evaluation is appropriate in such a vital issue as our future water supply and the impact of lake level reductions on the economies of the Lake Area and Montgomery County.

Three (3) key variables could dramatically affect the conclusions drawn by SJRA and its engineering firm, Freece & Nichols.  First, anticipated future water use is directly based on population demographics which project the rise in residents in Montgomery County.  Concerns exist that the population projections are understated and that water demands could be far greater than those used in SJRA’s conclusion.

Second, the aquifer historically supplying groundwater for Montgomery County (which, until now, provided 100% of the water used in the County) is not sufficiently recharging and only “estimates” by LSGCD can predict the rate at which it will recharge itself in the future.  If LSGCD’s “estimates” are too optimistic and, in fact, the aquifer cannot recharge adequately at the reduced level of usage it has mandated, LSGCD will further reduce the amount of water that may be used from the aquifer and increase the amount of water that must be drawn from Lake Conroe (or other unproven water sources such as “brackish water”).

Third, the City of Houston owns two-thirds of Lake Conroe water.  Under its contract with SJRA, Houston can sell any part of its two-thirds that SJRA doesn’t nominate for its own use in a given year.

While SJRA has concluded that its planned sales of water will only have “minimal effects” on Lake Conroe’s water levels over the next 40 years, errors in population demographics, lower aquifer recharge rates and/or the sale of water by the City of Houston could escalate water use “sooner rather than later” and create serious problems within 15 to 20 years.

The Texas A&M University study will review two distinct topics.  First, it will review the study conducted by Freece and Nichols on behalf of SJRA.  Texas A&M will analyze the facts, methods and assumptions applied by Freece and Nichols in an effort to support or refute that study.  In particular, Texas A&M will conclude if it agrees or disagrees with future lake levels as projected.  Second, Texas A&M will review the socio-economic effects on residents and businesses in the Lake Conroe area should lake levels drop to economically disadvantaged levels.  Coupled with this socio-economic study will be a review of the effects throughout Montgomery County if they conclude a negative economic impact is likely in the Lake Conroe area and insufficient water is available for our future.

In the socio-economic portion of the study, numerous questions are under review.  If lake levels were to drop to economically disadvantaged levels:

  • How would this affect lake area property values?
  • How would this affect property tax collections (used to fund the majority of County, school and hospital district budgets)?
  • How would this affect local business activity and related sales tax collections?

Since a maximum of 100,000 acre feet of water per year may be drawn from Lake Conroe, concerns exist that we may run out of water “sooner rather than later”.  If we were to run out of water:

  • How would existing County residents and businesses adapt to a lack of water?
  • Would all residential and business development be curtailed due to the inability to provide water for that growth throughout Montgomery County?
  • If growth within Montgomery County is curtailed, what happens to a County that can no longer sustain growth?

Certain potential donors to this Texas A&M study have elected not to contribute (such as The Woodlands Township….the most populous and tax-abundant area in the County) because: 1) SJRA already did a study, 2) SJRA is in charge of water in Montgomery County, and 3) lake levels on Lake Conroe do not directly affect their community.  While these points may hold some validity, a much bigger point is being missed; namely, what happens when the County runs out of water?  Lake Conroe may be able to satisfy our short-term water needs, but will not be able to supply our water needs forever.  Among many interested parties, the LCA, LCCN, Montgomery County and the City of Conroe desire to explore future reservoir sites before it’s too late, damage is done to our economies and our water demands outweigh our water supply.  While SJRA is virtually in charge of all of the County’s water, SJRA has declined to support a review of future reservoir sites “for at least 5 years”.  The procurement of land, acquisition of permits and construction of a suitable future reservoir site would most likely take 20 – 25 years, or more.  What happens if a scenario as outlined above occurs where local economies are damaged and the County runs out of water in 15 years?  Is it not time to take action on the review of a reservoir to supplement Lake Conroe NOW?            

Across the world, people are realizing that WATER is the commodity of the future.  Alternatives to oil are being developed to fuel our seemingly endless energy needs.  But, as best we know, no one has developed an alternative to water.  Certainly, water conservation methods will become commonplace across the nations to reduce our demands on our precious water supply.  But, it is our belief that better efforts must be made today to capture every drop of water that falls from the sky.  For Montgomery County, that means a second reservoir.

Many thanks must go to the Lake Conroe Communities Network for spearheading volunteer efforts in pursing the Texas A&M study and fundraising.  Judge Sadler and Commissioner Mike Meador deserve acknowledgement for contributing money and staff time, and for legal resources in the negotiation of a contract with Texas A&M University for this water study.  Conroe Mayor Webb Melder, Senator Robert Nichols and Representative Brandon Creighton provided support and leadership; and, certainly, those entities contributing monies towards this study deserve our gratitude.  Financial contributors include the LCA, LCCN, Montgomery County, the City of Conroe, the City of Montgomery, MUD 2, MUD 4, MUD 8, MUD 9, MUD 18, Emergency Services District 1, Corinthian Point, La Torretta del Lago, private utility owner Mike Stoecker, and the Dana Richardson family businesses E-Z Boat Storage, The Palms Marina and Sunset Shores RV Park.

The Lake Conroe Association, a non-profit 501 (c) 3 corporation, is fortunate to have over 400 supportive residential and business members who contribute their hard-earned dollars to support our past and, hopefully, future efforts on behalf of the many communities within Montgomery County.  The LCA currently has over 21,000 fund raising letters in the mail as part of our Annual 2010 Fund Raising Campaign.  Should you receive yours in the mail, the LCA would greatly appreciate your support.  In the event you do not receive such a letter, donations can be mailed to: Lake Conroe Association, PO Box 376, Willis, Texas  77378-9998.  Additional information regarding the LCA can be obtained at www.lakeconroeassociation.com and about LCCN at www.lakeconroecn.com.

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association

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

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

Raindrops keep falling….and falling….and falling on my head. With all of our recent rain and the gates on the dam open as the San Jacinto River Authority releases water downstream, it’s hard to imagine that the topic most on the minds of the Lake Conroe Association (LCA) is the availability of water for Montgomery County.  Given so many water issues being discussed, I thought I’d update you on our perspective of where the discussions stand.

Judge Sadler held his “Water Summit” on September 28 with invitees including State Senators Nichols and Williams; State Representatives Creighton and Eissler; County Commissioners Meador, Doyal, and Chance; Conroe Mayor Melder; Woodlands Township Chairperson Blair; the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA); and the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District (LSGCD).  SJRA presented data from the recently completed engineering study on historic Lake Conroe data (lake levels, rainfall, evaporation, water releases from the dam, etc) which included many “What If Scenarios” based on utilizing water from LakeConroe in different quantities in the future.  Judge Sadler presented his concept of creating two future reservoirs within the County for water collection and use.  While all attendees agreed that the topic of water for the County must be addressed, few specific conclusions or action items were developed.  Regardless of this, Judge Sadler’s initiative to call this “Water Summit” brought many of the necessary parties together and set the basis for future such meetings.  I believe we will shortly see another such “Water Summit” and, with a stronger consensus among the invitees on the best way to address our water needs, a subsequent meeting for the general public of Montgomery County.  We’ll keep you posted when this public meeting is called.

You may recall the LCA’s September Question and Answer Survey related to lake issues that was mailed to over 19,000 County residents.  With over 2,500 written, signed responses, the survey results were submitted to the attendees of the “Water Summit”.  Key responses included:

  • 86% knew groundwater use must be reduced by 30% by 2015
  • To meet this goal, 87% knew water would be drawn out ofLakeConroe
  • 97% believed lowering the level of Lake Conroe would hurt the local economy and property values
  • 98% believed lowering the level of Lake Conroe would, at times, restrict access to the lake for recreational use of boaters and anglers
  • 95% believed water conservation measures should be implemented for existing sub-divisions, and 97% for future community developments

We would like to acknowledge Senator Nichols for personally responding to all 2,500 respondents with his thoughts on our water future.

We meet regularly with Board Members of the Lake Conroe Community Network to discuss water needs for Montgomery County.  This organization has held informative public meetings on the topics of property taxes, annexation, emergency services and water; and we find them to be most helpful in discussing water facts and potential water solutions.

During the past two weeks, we have met individually with Judge Sadler, Senator Nichols, Mayor Melder, and the SJRA.  In my meeting with Judge Sadler, I was assured that I will be allowed to attend future “Water Summits” as a representative of the LCA.  While calendars didn’t work for a meeting with Representative Creighton, our phone conversation provided insight and we set a meeting date for next week.  We are working to set a meeting date with Woodlands Township Chairperson Blair in an effort to better understand the perspectives of Woodlands’ residents as it relates to water use.

What do I feel I can state with some level of certainty?  I’d say:

  • Montgomery County needs water.  Our County is growing rapidly and growth requires water.
  • Virtually all of Montgomery County’s residential water today comes from groundwater in our aquifer via water wells.
  • Our aquifer has been overused and cannot be allowed to decrease to a level where it endangers that the aquifer will never be able to “recharge” itself.  The LSGCD has concluded that the County can no longer draw greater than 64,000 acre feet of water annually from the aquifer, and that any water needs in excess of this must come from surface water (such as Lake Conroe).  The U.S. Geological Service is releasing a report before year end which addresses how fast our aquifer is “recharging” itself, and this report will provide data to support (or modify) assumptions made by LSGCD.
  • 2015 is the year in which the County will no longer be allowed to draw greater than 64,000 acre feet of water annually from groundwater in our aquifer via water wells.
  • In 2015, all County water needs in excess of 64,000 acre feet per year will come from Lake Conroe.  Based on current water usage and estimated population growth in the County, water use in the County will approximate 87,000 acre feet annually.  The shortfall of 23,000 acre feet (87,000 projected less 64,000 allowed) will equate to about 1 foot of water per year from Lake Conroe(since Lake Conroe covers 23,000 acres and we’ll have a 23,000 acre feet shortfall, the math equates to 1 foot).
  • The one foot of Lake Conroe water will be drawn annually from 2015 to 2024.  Based on estimated population growth and ignoring alternatives (see “Alternatives” below), two feet of Lake Conroe water will be drawn annually from 2025 to 2034; three feet drawn 2035 to 2044; and four feet drawn 2045 and beyond.  The maximum allowable annual draw from Lake Conroe has been set by The State of Texas at 100,000 acre feet.
  • A water treatment plant will be built below the dam on Lake Conroe and pipelines connected from that water treatment plant to various locations including, but not limited to, Conroe and The Woodlands.  Planning and construction will commence shortly so as to meet the mandated 2015 groundwater reduction deadline.  The water treatment plant will be built in units called “trains”, and additional “trains” will be added as additional water is required in each ten year interval described above.  The estimated cost of “Phase 1” (2015 operational date) is $400 million.  The estimated cost of “Phases 1 thru 4” (2045 operational date) is $2.8 billion.  Do not think the construction of the water treatment plant is an option.  This construction is a certainty, and only the amount of water needed in the future will dictate the number of “trains” needed and the final cost.

ALTERNATIVES:  How could the amount of water to be drawn from Lake Conroe in the future be reduced?  “Alternatives” include:

  • Water conservation will be an integral part of reducing the amount of water drawn fromLakeConroe.  If we use less water, then we won’t have to draw as much.  Since a maximum of 100,000 acre feet per year can be drawn fromLakeConroeand more water than that will be needed someday, water conservation will be with us forever.  For a separate discussion of this, see “Water Conservation” below.
  • Utilizing waste effluent from treatment plants for irrigation will reduce our water use.  In summer months, it is estimated that 60% of our residential water use goes to irrigation (watering your yard and landscape).  In the winter, that estimate is 30%.  While it may be difficult to convert existing subdivisions and commercial development into users of effluent for irrigation (since the construction and infrastructure is already in place), new construction could much easier accommodate the use of effluent for irrigation by incorporating this concept into the planning stage of that development.
  • Further consideration must be given to Judge Sadler’s proposal of building two new reservoirs to capture water that would otherwise be released over the dam on Lake Conroe or lost elsewhere during periods of heavy rainfall.  Conceptually, these two reservoirs would capture water before it gets toLakeConroe.  If Lake Conroe were not full (at the 201 feet level), then the water would be allowed to flow intoLakeConroe.  If Lake Conroe were full and excess rains would be otherwise released downstream, these reservoirs would capture the water behind dams and hold it there until Lake Conroe needed it to fill the lake to the 201 feet level (normal pool elevation).  Clear obstacles to this proposal include the procurement of the land for the creation of the two reservoirs (some of which would have to come from theSamHoustonNational Forest) and the multitude of environmental concerns related to such a project.  The cost of such a project has not yet been determined.  SJRA has agreed to conduct a feasibility study of this proposal, but a study date earlier than 2015 has not been agreed to yet by SJRA.  Approvals for and construction of such reservoirs would probably take a minimum of 20 to 30 years (remembering that our County’s water needs will be here forever).
  • Many have suggested that an “alternative” might be building a reservoir between Lake Conroe and The Woodlands which captures all water released over the dam atLakeConroe.  This “alternative” has been discounted based on the lack of a suitable site.  To be cost effective and practical, this reservoir would require too much land given the lack of undeveloped land between Lake Conroe and The Woodlands.

WATER CONSERVATION:  What are suggestions for implementing a County-wide program for Water Conservation?  Some include:

  • Given the estimate above that 60% of our residential water use in summer is for irrigation, numerous concepts utilized currently by other communities could be applied.  Automatic sprinkler systems can have rain sensors added which stops the system from engaging if a certain amount of rain has fallen.  Manual sprinkler systems (hose with a sprinkler attached) could require a dial timer inserted before the sprinkler itself which forces the homeowner to set a specific watering duration (How many times have you turned on your manual sprinkler and forgot to turn it off?).  Automatic sprinkler systems can have a feature added which turn off your system if a sprinkler head is broken off or an underground water line is broken.
  • Consideration could be given to the specific landscaping plants that you select.  Obviously, some plants and trees require more water than others.  Similarly, certain lawn grasses require significantly less water thanSt. Augustine, for example.
  • Many modifications within your home can reduce the amount of water that you consume.  Examples include low water volume toilets, low water volume shower heads, and water efficient dish washers.  Showers typically take less water than baths.  Reducing shower duration affects water use.  Reducing frequency of car washes affects water use.  Eliminating the use of your water hose to clean your sidewalks and driveways reduces water use.  I’m sure you could come up with further ideas of your own.
  • Consideration should be given to reducing or eliminating amenity ponds and water features that are created strictly for aesthetic purposes.  Amenity ponds are currently replenished with groundwater and water features (waterfalls, fountains) create excessive evaporation.
  • Utility Districts/MUD’s are contemplating a tiered rate structure that charges more money per unit (gallons) based on your individual residential water use.  Basically, a “standard” is set for residential water use per month.  If you use the “standard” amount, you pay the standard price per gallon.  If you use more water than the “standard”, you pay a higher price per gallon.  If you use less water than the “standard”, you pay a lower price per gallon.  This type of program assumes that water users are price sensitive and that they will reduce usage when they 1) pay closer attention to their water usage, and 2) must pay a higher unit cost per gallon due to their “excessive” use.  This type of program has already been implemented in certain Utility Districts within Conroe and The Woodlands.
  • State legislation could be developed that mandates water conservation in some form.  Currently, neither The State of Texas no rMontgomery County nor SJRA nor LSGCD nor anyone else can mandate water conservation.  Senator Nichols has approached the LCA and Lake Conroe Communities Network for assistance in drafting wording for possible water conservation legislation.  You can’t submit a bill for legislation without wording.  Of course, nothing says such legislation would pass; but this is a start at addressing the State-wide problem of how to provide water to an ever-growing population.

FURTHER THOUGHTS:  Please consider the following:

  • The initial 1 foot of water per year will not be drawn from Lake Conroe until 2015.
  • For a current perspective, this weeks storms have forced SJRA to release 1 foot of water over the dam to reduce the lake level back to 201 feet (normal pool).
  • The average quantity of water released over the dam on Lake Conroe equates to seven feet per year (since the 1973 construction of the lake).  Through 2024, drawing one foot of water from Lake Conroe should simplistically mean that lake levels will remain similar to today but now only six foot (rather than seven foot) of water will be released over the dam per year.  Of course, beware of “averages”.  Some years will see more than seven feet and others less than seven feet.
  • Since the construction of Lake Conroe in 1973, this lake has dropped to a level of 197 feet (the level after Hurricane Rita when water had to be released to repair the dam) on 0.9% of the months over these 36 years.  Had one foot of water been removed from the lake every year since 1973, the lake would have reached a level of 197 feet on 4.3% of the months over these 36 years.  Don’t get me wrong.  The level of 197 feet was terrible and only three public boat launches could even get a boat in the water.  This factoid simply points out that given the one foot drawdown, we’d reach the level of 197 feet 18 months (out of 432 months in 36 years) rather than the actual 4 months (out of 432 months in 36 years).
  • The projected draw downs of 1, 2, 3 and 4 feet do not factor in the benefits of water conservation.  Successful water conservation efforts County-wide will reduce our overall water use.  This will equate to either a direct reduction in the drawdown amounts or an increase in the future levels of our aquifer (which would allow more water to be drawn from the aquifer and less taken from Lake Conroe).  The LSGCD will regularly monitor our aquifer level and adjust water programs accordingly.
  • You may not be aware that the majority of waste effluent from treatment plants around Lake Conroe is pumped into Lake Conroe.  Population growth has already been factored into projected draw downs.  What has not been credited is that population growth creates more waste effluent which goes into the lake and, thereby, adds some amount of water to Lake Conroe.
  • Typically,LakeConroedrops to the level of 197 feet only during an emergency (dam repair) or a drought.  SJRA is working on a “drought contingency plan” which would limit how much water could be removed from Lake Conroe in a period classified as a drought.

I’ve ignored so many details yet have written five pages already.  If you’ve read this far, I commend your dedication to the topic and patience with me.  I’ll leave topics like “How will we pay for this new water treatment plant?” and “What will all of this do to my monthly water bill?” for another day.  For now, know that concerned citizens like those Board Members of the Lake Conroe Association and Lake Conroe Communities Network are doing their best to learn about “the water business” and challenge our elected officials to arrive at the best solution for all residents of Montgomery County.  As always, we welcome your feedback at www.lakeconroeassociation.com.  I’ll communicate further information and the proposed public water summit date when we know more.  Until then, enjoy what I hope is some beautiful fall weather.

Mike Bleier, President

LakeConroeAssociation

Lake Conroe Native Plant Restoration Project

Lake Conroe Native Plant Restoration Project

Conroe, TX

July 27, 2009

27 volunteers converged on Lake Conroe July 25th, 2009 for a day of transplanting native aquatic plants into the lake. Four different species of the plants were placed along the northern shores of the Sam Houston National Forest. The volunteer group was able to get 120 pots of water willow, soft-stem bulrush, spike rush, and pickerel weed into the water during the workday. The group was both dedicated and experienced, and the work was completed in a very efficient manner. All of the plants were protected with wire mesh cages after being transplanted.

The project is a coordinated effort between the Seven Coves Bass Club (with the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation), the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the San Jacinto River Authority, and the Lewisville Aquatic Ecosystem Research Facility. A major portion of the funding for the project has come via a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. This group has been working to maintain a native plant base in Lake Conroe since the incorporation of white amur (also known as “grass carp”) into the lake’s hydrilla management program in 2006. Although the herbivorous fish have been able to eliminate all of the 2,000 acres of invasive hydrilla, the native base of aquatic plants in the lake has been reduced from over 1,000 acres to a sparse 150 acres to date.

The goals of the Native Plant Restoration Project is to assist in the renewal of habitat for juvenile fish, reduce excessive mineral levels that lead to invasive plant species growth, inhibit algal production, and improve the overall water quality in the lake. Although this program has placed nearly 1,500 native plants into Lake Conroe over the past two years, colonization, and expansion, has been retarded with the current numbers of grass carp that remain in the lake. It is hoped that the restocking efforts will become enhanced, with a future decline in the numbers of the amur.

Several more workdays are being scheduled for the remainder of the 2009 planting season. Anyone with questions, or a desire to assist in the restoration project, is invited to contact the project’s coordinator-Ron Gunter. Ron can be reached at 936-524-4413, or regunter@consolidated.net

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

In late September, the LCA conducted a survey to establish the understanding of water conservation, the use of surface water, the effect of using surface water on the level of Lake Conroe, and the economic impact the lake has on the Montgomery County economy. Senator Nichols presented the results of the survey to the participants at the “Water Summit”. The results of the survey are presented below:

 LAKE CONROE ASOCIATION

SUMMARY OF SEPT’09 “QUESTION AND ANSWER SURVEY”….2,565 RESPONSES

 1.        96% were aware that water is a most valuable resource and that the aquifer is depleting (2,465 “yes” and 100 ”no”)

2.       85% were aware that Lake Conroe was built as a reservoir to provide water for the City of Houston and Montgomery County (2,189 “yes” and 376 “no”)

3.       86% were aware that Montgomery County residents must reduce water consumption from aquifers (underground water) by 30% by 2015 (now 2016) (2,197 “yes” and 368 “no”)

4.       86% were aware that a proposed solution to reducing water consumption from aquifers is to pump the needed water out of Lake Conroe (2,200 “yes” and 365 “no”)

5.       97% were aware that pumping water out of Lake Conroe will lower the lake’s level unless alternative sources of water for Montgomery County are identified (2,484 “yes” and 81 “no”)

6.       97% believe lowering the level of Lake Conroe will hurt our local economy (2,480 “yes” and 85 “no”)

7.       97% believe lowering the level of Lake Conroe will hurt local property values (2,490 “yes” and 75 “no”)

8.       91% are concerned lowering the level of Lake Conroe could damage the structural integrity of the dam (especially during storms) (2,323 “yes” and “242 “no”)

9.       98% believe lowering the level of Lake Conroe will, at times, restrict access to the lake for recreational use of boaters and anglers (2,521 “yes” and 44 “no”)

10.   94% believe lowering the level of Lake Conroe may damage integral native aquatic plant life which provides fish and bird habitat, controls shoreline erosion, and contributes to water quality (2,420 “yes” and 145 “no”)

11.   92% believe lowering the level of Lake Conroe may promote excessive growth of noxious, invasive, non-native vegetation such as Hydrilla (2,368 “yes” and 197 “no”)

12.   95% believe strong water conservation measures must be implemented in existing sub-divisions (2,427 “yes” and 138 “no”)

13.   97% believe that all future land developments must be approved with regulations restricting amenity lakes and irrigation systems that use ground water or surface water (2,496 “yes” and 69 “no”)

14.   98% believe this water shortage problem should be solved with all available options instead of simply using water from Lake Conroe (2,521 “yes” and 44 “no”)

 

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

On May 6, 2009, the Seven Coves Bass Club, in conjunction with Texas Parks & Wildlife, the US Army Corps of Engineers and the San Jacinto River Authority, presented information regarding the planting of “native plants” in Lake Conroe.  As the majority of the LCA Board attended this meeting and gained information, we thought we should share this information with you.

The “Lake Conroe Aquatic Vegetation Management Plan” for 2008-2009 outlines the need to reduce invasive species such as Hydrilla, Giant Salvinia and Water Hyacinth as well as maintain a healthy native plant community.  This Plan was developed by Texas Parks & Wildlife and the San Jacinto River Authority, and similar Plans have been in place since the return of Hydrilla some 7-8 years ago.

“Native plants” are an important part of ourLake’s ecosystem.  Without “native plants”, we experience lake bank erosion and increased sedimentation.  “Native plants” utilize nutrients in our Lake which would otherwise be used by invasive species or fast-growing algae.  “Native plants” also provide oxygen needed by healthy fish communities.

Given sunlight, warm temperatures, nutrients and shallow waters, some form of plant life is always going to grow in ourLake.  With the reduction of Hydrilla from over 2,000 acres to virtually no acres and Giant Salvinia from over 628 acres to approximately 150 acres and Water Hyacinth from over 335 acres to approximately 50 acres, some form of plant life is going to move into the space vacated by these reduced invasive plant species.  The question for us is “What plants do we want in ourLake?”.  It would seem obvious that we do not want invasive species to again take over our Lake.  A healthy native plant community, in conjunction with a “maintenance level” of White Amur grass carp and herbicide applications as needed, is the answer to holding back the “invasive plants”.

“Native plants” have been added to ourLakefor the past 25 years.  If you visit the northern end of theLake, you’d have seen them protected by metal cages or fences in small coves.  Since the addition of over 123,000 White Amur grass carp over the past 3 years to battle the invasion of Hydrilla, the “native plant” community has dramatically reduced from 1,078 acres in 2007 to 140 acres in 2008.  A survey is currently being undertaken by Texas Parks & Wildlife to estimate the number of acres of “native plants” as well as Hydrilla, Giant Salvinia and Water Hyacinth.  It is anticipated that the number of acres of “native plants” will show a further decrease.

The Seven Coves Bass Club grows “native plants” in a nursery located near the dam at the San Jacinto River Authority facility.  Seedlings are obtained from theLewisville,TexasResearch Facility and grown in contained water gardens until they can be separated (split in two).  One half of the plant stays in the nursery (for further propagation) and the second half is planted in the northern, uninhabited portions of the Lake in protective cages.  Over time, these “native plants” expand by either colonization around the cage site or by seed dispersion.  1,200 “native plants” were placed in ourLakein 2008, and an estimated 4,500 will be added in 2009.  To put this in perspective, 4,500 plants will cover approximately one quarter of an acre of shoreline.  As stated by Texas Parks & Wildlife, “It may take 3 to 5 years until we see noticeable vegetation outside of the cages due to the slow growing rate of these natives.”

The “native plants” utilized are preferably grass carp resistant (meaning the grass carp prefer not to eat them).  “Natives” being utilized under this program include American Pondweed, Illinois Pondweed, Wild Celery (Vallisneria), Water Stargrass, Coontail, White Water Lily, Spatterdock, Watershield, American Lotus, Bulltongue, Arrowhead, Pickerelweed, Water Willow, Softstem Bulrush, Flatstem Spikerush, Squarestem Spikerush, Slender Spikerush and Maidencane.  As the Lake Conroe Association is not familiar with each plant, we are currently undertaking a study to better understand each plant and its characteristics.  In particular, we are interested in understanding the growth rate of each species and how it may disperse along our shorelines in the future.  We will have dialogue with the Seven Coves Bass Club, Texas Parks & Wildlife and the San Jacinto River Authority regarding these issues.  We will release our findings and summaries of these dialogues to our LCA Members in future correspondence.

Not to get “the horse before the cart”, but Texas Parks & Wildlife has stated that they will issue permits to homeowners (through licensed applicators) for herbicide treatments to kill “native plants” which grow at your boat dock and limit your access to the Lake….should this even happen.  Such treatments would be at the expense of the homeowner.  Texas Parks & Wildlife has selected these specific “native plants” not only because they may be grass carp resistant but also because they typically do not act in an invasive manner and create access issues for lake users.  We will all be closely observing the behavior of these “native plants” in the future.

With Hydrilla almost gone and an estimated 70,000 grass carp still alive in Lake Conroe, the issue of “Should grass carp start being harvested from theLake?” has arisen.  Texas Parks & Wildlife commits to keeping a “maintenance level” of grass carp in Lake Conroe“forever” and won’t consider any harvesting of grass carp until it completes its current survey of levels of “native plants”, Hydrilla, Giant Salvinia and Giant Salvinia.  Should Texas Parks & Wildlife determine they desire to harvest grass carp, they propose to do so only through licensed grass carp tournaments (typically via bow and arrow) (and assumed by me to be only in uninhabited shorelines) which may harvest 30 – 40 grass carp per tournament (not “per person”….”per tournament”) based on previous results of Texas Parks & Wildlife grass carp tournaments.  We’ll further address this topic should it actually be proposed by Texas Parks & Wildlife.

I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you again with all of my detail, but the Lake Conroe Association Board feels that part of our job is to keep you informed.  I’ll write again soon when we have more information to share.  Until then, you may share your thoughts with us through our website at “lakeconroeassociation.com”.  Enjoy your Summer use of the Lake Conroe and remember to always be careful on the Lake.

Mike Bleier, President

LakeConroeAssociation

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

Welcome to 2009. On behalf of the LCA Board of Directors, we’d like to thank our membership for their support in 2008 and wish all of you a prosperous 2009.

The LCA held its Annual Meeting on Friday, January 16 at the offices of the San Jacinto River Authority to update our Members on topics of current interest and tally all proxies received from our Members to elect an LCA Board of Directors for 2009. From our 507 current LCA Members, 173 proxies were returned (which exceeds the minimum number necessary for a quorum). You elected the following individuals to represent you on the 2009 LCA Board of Directors: Gene Barrington, Mike Bleier, Tom Butz, Dawn Cleboski, Gene Colbert, Rich Cutler, Jim Pohoski, Ben Richardson, Stan Sproba, Colin Stead and Sue Wheatley. All eleven (11) of these individuals served on your 2007 and 2008 Boards as well. We look forward to serving you and our lake community in the year to come.

Subsequent to the LCA Annual Meeting, the LCA Board convened to nominate and elect its 2009 Officers. Accepting nomination for 2009 were Mike Bleier (LCA President), Ben Richardson (LCA Vice President) and Tom Butz (LCA Secretary/Treasurer), and all three were unanimously elected into their respective offices.

During the past year, we experienced a decrease in our Hydrilla infestation from 2,052 acres in January, 2008 to only 2 acres currently. A total of 123,765 White Amur grass carp have been added to Lake Conroe (27,441 in 2006, 48,750 in 2007, and 47,574 in 2008) and, based on an estimated mortality rate of 32% per year, approximately 87,000 remain alive at this time. These White Amur remain a protected species (meaning if caught, they must be released) as they will continue their job going forward of eating Hydrilla tubers as they grow out of the lake bottom this Spring and beyond. Unless unforeseen circumstances occur, we anticipate that these White Amur should control Hydrilla in 2009 and no additional White Amur will be added to the lake this year.

Water Hyacinth and Giant Salvinia (67.9 acres and 628.7 acres, respectively, in October, 2008) become primarily dormant in our Winter temperatures, and no herbicide treatments are currently being performed. We hope that our White Amur will develop an appetite for Water Hyacinth and Giant Salvinia as their Hydrilla food sources is depleted. Should this not occur, it is probable that Water Hyacinth and Giant Salvinia will be treated with herbicides by Spring/Summer, 2009.

Other points of interest include:

· Dam repairs from Hurricane Ike damage have commenced. The contract with Rebel Contractors, Inc. of Willis, TX allows 90 days for substantial completion of the project. It is anticipated that 75% of the $978,268 bid will be reimbursed by FEMA (with the balance paid by the San Jacinto River Authority and the City of Houston)

· The current lake level is 199.7 MSL (normal is 201.0 MSL).

· Lake Conroe will be the site for a very large Bass Tournament sponsored by Toyota in October, 2009. Festivities will be coordinated at Buffalo Springs.

· A new boat dock and launch area will be constructed this year at the San Jacinto River Authority damsite for use of the Montgomery County Constables’ lake patrol boats. A new building will also be erected for use of Constable lake personnel.

· The LCA joined the Conroe Chamber of Commerce to promote itself to local businesses and gain the support of this valuable, local organization.

· The next lake survey to quantify infestations of Hydrilla, Water Hyacinth and Giant Salvinia is expected in May, 2009. Another lakewide survey of all native and non-native invasive species will be conducted around September, 2009 by Texas Parks & Wildlife.

· During Winter, we lose approximately 40 million gallons of water per day to evaporation and transpiration. This compares to highs of approximately 200 million gallons per day in Summer.

While the LCA conducts a number of valuable functions for our lake community, a primary responsibility held by the LCA is that of fund raising for Aquatic Plant Management on Lake Conroe (with over $600,000 raised in the past three years). We’d like to thank the 70 individuals who sent in contributions along with their LCA proxies this month, and hope that our membership will show continued support throughout 2009. Our next official Fund Raising Campaign will be in May, 2009. With our current economic downturn affecting City, County, State and Federal budgets, we are greatly concerned that funding we count on for Aquatic Plant Management from these sources may be reduced or eliminated. We are working with Senator Robert Nichols and Representative Brandon Creighton to encourage the introduction and passing of bills in the 81st Legislative Session of the Texas Legislature which will guarantee funding for our Texas lakes. As always, we will also continue our communication with local businesses and Property Owner Associations (POA’s) to solicit their support.

During 2008, the LCA received $127, 602 in contributions. During that same period, we spent $115,775 ($112,506 on White Amur, $2,000 on our bi-annual audit, and $1,269 on other expenses); leaving a net positive cash flow of $11,827 for the year. We currently hold $11,013 in an interest-bearing checking account and $80,000 in CD’s. While we are very pleased to have $91,013 on deposit, these funds will not be sufficient to fund the treatment of significant aquatic plant infestations (should they occur). So, as always (and until new sources of City, County, State or Federal funding are received), we are sure to be counting on your support in 2009.

Thank you for listening and remaining committed to our lake community. The LCA Board looks forward to serving you for another year.

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

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

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

Just some quick information for those interested. Hoping you and your family made it through Hurricane Ike safely and with limited damage.

As you are probably aware, the dam on Lake Conroe suffered damage from Ike. Approximately 1,500 feet of the 12,000 foot length of the dam needs “spot repair” at an initial estimated cost of $1 million. Before any repair can commence, engineering design for the repair must be completed, bids must go out to qualified contractors and a final bid must be accepted by the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) Board. The actual repairs will most likely commence by late-January and actual repair work is estimated to take 8 – 12 weeks. If the lake level must be lowered for repairs, SJRA does not see such an action occurring before late-January (with plenty of advance notification so that boat owners and lake area residents can prepare).

Based on the August, 2008 surveys performed by Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPWD), our weed and plant acreages are as follows:

· Hydrilla….1.3 acres (down from 2.5 acres in June)

· Water Hyacinth…..67.9 acres (down from 106.4 acres in June)

· Giant Salvinia…..628.7 acres (up from 283.5 acres in June)

· Combined native plants…..140.0 acres (down from 151.5 acres in June)

It appears that the White Amur purchased for Hydrilla reduction are now eating Water Hyacinth. Giant Salvinia is currently being treated with herbicides by SJRA and a contractor hired by SJRA.

An estimated 90,000 White Amur grass carp remain alive in Lake Conroe at this time. While certain organizations have suggested that the ban on removing White Amur from Lake Conroe be removed, the TPWD official in charge of Lake Conroe’s Aquatic Plant Management Program (Dr. Earl Chilton) has stated that this “ban” will not be removed at this time. Dr. Chilton sited that Lake Conroe is still infested with Hydrilla tubers from the 2,100 acre infestation we experienced in 2007 and that the White Amur will prove beneficial once these tubers start to grow again in Spring, 2009 and beyond. Hydrilla tubers can live dormant in the lake bottom for up to 5 – 7 years.

The Annual Meeting of the Lake Conroe Association (LCA) will be held at the offices of SJRA on Friday, January 16, 2009 from 10AM to Noon. Among other topics, the Board of Directors for the LCA for the upcoming year will be elected. More information on this meeting will follow as the date approaches.

Thank you for listening and let us know how we can help. We can be reached at

www.lakeconroeassociation.com.

Mike Bleier

President, Lake Conroe Association

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

Have you been enjoying the warm sun of Summer and open waters of Lake Conroe? I certainly hope so given the Lake conditions over the past two years. In a meeting last night of Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPWD), San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA), anglers and the Lake Conroe Association (LCA), TPWD reported that Hydrilla has been reduced to a total of 2.5 acres based on its June, 2008 survey. What a change from the 2,033 acres reported as recently as January, 2008 !! The 103,883 White Amur grass carp estimated to be alive currently are certainly doing their job.

Regarding other “exotic, invasive plants” on our Lake, TPWD reported an increase of Giant Salvinia from 225 acres in July, 2007 to 283 acres in May, 2008. As Giant Salvinia grows so rapidly and White Amur do not particularly enjoy eating this plant, SJRA will continue to attack this plant through herbicide applications. TPWD also reported that Water Hyacinth decreased from 337 acres in July, 2007 to 106 acres in May, 2008. Given the reduction and that White Amur appear to be eating Water Hyacinth, herbicide treatments of Water Hyacinth will be ceased until an increasing trend is observed.

With July through September being the peak growing season for our various lake plants, TPWD will continue performing surveys to monitor and calculate the quantity of Hydrilla, Giant Salvinia and Water Hyacinth in our Lake. Surveys will be performed in August and October, 2008. Should the current trend of “exotic, invasive plants” continue to decrease in 2008, TPWD estimates it will perform two (2) surveys in 2009. And while the survey results are very positive now, TPWD issued a “word of caution” that we need to continue to gather data to be sure Hydrilla doesn’t come back.

In the category of “not good news”, “native plants” have been reported to decrease from 1,077 acres in July, 2007 to 151 acres in May, 2008. As occurred in the early 1980’s, it appears that the White Amur are moving from the decimated Hydrilla population to our “native plants” as their source of nutrition (with Coontail, Joint Grass, Lilies and Lotus representing the “natives” currently left in the Lake). This is not good news for any lake. Learning from this specific Hydrilla infestation on Lake Conroe and the related treatment response, TPWD assured all that any future Hydrilla infestations on Lake Conroe warranting treatment would be “hit hard and hit early”. Utilizing a stocking rate of approximately 55 fish/acre early in the infestation, TPWD would hope to solve the infestation quickly, not infuse an excessive amount of White Amur and protect the “native” plants.

As a matter of definition, a significant distinction is made between plants referred to as “native” versus “exotic”. “Native” plants occur naturally in our ecosystem, and their expansion is kept in check by fish, insects, herbivores and invertebrates eating them as a food source in the overall food chain. “Exotic” plants have been brought in from elsewhere, and the ecosystem doesn’t reduce their expansion as they are not fed upon by these same fish, insects, herbivores and invertebrates. In effect, the growth and expansion of “exotic” plants goes unchecked until affected by outside forces (introduction of White Amur or herbicides).

It is important to understand the need for “native” plants in a lake. Most directly, “natives” help control erosion of shorelines, reduce silt flow from streams, filter and clarify water, provide excellent fish habitat, and provide for a healthy ecosystem to support water fowl and other wildlife. By providing these direct benefits, “native” plants indirectly contribute to a healthy local economy by encouraging tourism to our area for fishing, bird watching and the overall enjoyment of a healthy lake. The loss of “native” plants (as compared to the “exotic” plants we have fought so strongly) would be devastating to the Lake Conroe community.

As you may have already heard, TPWD, SJRA and anglers have initiated a program for re-vegetation and native plant restoration on Lake Conroe. Seven Coves Bass Club is an active leader in this program. “Native” plants are being grown in a controlled environment in our Lake with the objective of relocating them throughout the uninhabited shorelines of Lake Conroe when those nursery plants are mature enough to be moved. Three (3) primary categories of plants are being grown in this program as follows:

· Submergents (majority of plant is under the water) – Coontail, Water Primrose, Variable Leaf Milfoil and Wild Celery

· Emergents (majority of plant is out of the water) – Cattail, Bulrush, Sedge, Maiden Cane and Water Willow.

· Floating Leaved (leaves float on surface) – Spatterdock, Water Lily and American Lotus.

Only “native” plants are being used for this re-vegetation project, and only “natives” that are the most resistant to feeding by White Amur. In the approximate 800 Texas lakes over 75 surface acres each, TPWD reports that in no case did the “natives” create major problems. The LCA has requested contact information related to Property Owner Associations representing some of these 800 Texas lakes to ask about the success of these “native” plantings.

Specifics to this Lake Conroe 2008 re-vegetation project include:

· Not greater than 3 acres of “native” plants will be introduced over the next 5 – 10 years.

· TPWD hopes that these 3 acres will ultimately spread by seed production to approximately 10% of our Lake, or 2,000 acres.

· “Native” plants will be planted along uninhabited shoreline primarily North of the 1097 bridge. They will not plant in front of a residence.

· Should these “native” plants re-propagate in front of a residence, TPWD has agreed to issue permits to the lakefront owner so that the owner can hire a contractor to spray or otherwise eradicate the “natives” in front of the residence (at the expense of the resident). Should the problem be excessive or out-of-control, TPWD and SJRA have stated they may consider cost-sharing with the resident owner.

· It is unlikely that bulkheaded shoreline will re-propagate through seeds due to the excessive wave action and deeper water (“natives” like shallow water).

· The LCA has not been asked to share in the cost of this re-vegetation project.

The LCA has questioned TPWD’s goal of reaching 2,000 acres of “natives”. Lake Conroe is reported by anglers to have been an excellent fishing lake with the 1,077 acres of “natives” reported in July, 2007, so the LCA doesn’t understand a goal of 2,000 acres, or 10% of Lake Conroe’s surface acres. TPWD feels their goal is appropriate. As only 3 acres of “natives” are actually being planted and all further growth must occur over time by seed re-generation, the LCA feels it has stated its concern and will follow “native” growth throughout the future.

TPWD commits to continue the control of “exotic” plants on Lake Conroe (such as Hydrilla, Giant Salvinia and Water Hyacinth…..or any new “exotic” which may appear in our future). TPWD has assured the LCA that the presence of these newly planted “natives” will not be used as an excuse to avoid the use of White Amur in the future. TPWD points out that the Lake Conroe Aquatic Plant Management Plan called for 1) the reduction of Hydrilla to 40 acres or less by March, 2008 (which it did achieve by June, 2008), and 2) the continued establishment of a healthy “native” plant community. TPWD has asked the LCA and its Members for the support of this “native” plant re-vegetation project.

Having evaluated the information presented and the benefits of a healthy “native” plant population on Lake Conroe, and knowing the LCA will closely monitor the activities of this re-vegetation plan, the LCA and its Board of Directors has determined it supports the concept of the re-vegetation program as outlined (while expressing concern over certain plan specifics as noted above). No monies contributed by our LCA Members for the purchase of White Amur or herbicide applications will be contributed to this re-vegetation project, but rather those monies will be held by the LCA for future treatments of “exotic” plants when the need arises.

We hope that you, too, can get behind this re-vegetation program and concur that “native” plants are an important part of our Lake ecosystem and economy. We thank TPWD, SJRA and the angling community for their efforts so far regarding re-vegetation, and the LCA looks forward to working with them in the future. As always, we welcome your questions and feedback at www: lakeconroeassociation.com.

Thank you for listening. Enjoy a beautiful Summer on the Lake.

Mike Bleier

President, Lake Conroe Association

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

Cool, rainy conditions have dominated the January, 2008 weather scene. A total of 3.09 inches of rain fell in Conroe in January (compared to the average January rainfall of 4.21). The Lake level has increased from 200.47 feet above sea level on January 1 to 201.02 feet today. Please find the following information for your review:

FEBRUARY 5 MEETING WITH TPWD, SJRA, LCA AND ANGLERS:

Today, very disturbing and disappointing news was released by TPWD. In Hydrilla’s slowest growing season (the winter) and with our largest quantity of White Amur (82,000 alive White Amur), Hydrilla infested acres grew from 1,940 in December, 2007 to 2,050 in January, 2008. Don’t be misled by Hydrilla’s lack of surface coverage….IT’S GROWING MORE THAN EVER AND MAY BE WORSE THIS SUMMER THAN LAST. TPWD stated that “We did not expect these results.” An independent consultant involved with Lake Conroe’s Hydrilla infestation for the past two years stated “An increase in Hydrilla during the winter with 82,000 White Amur eating Hydrilla at a rate of 42 fish/acre is an ominous sign.” TPWD’s next scheduled survey is March, 2008.

Specific to these surveys, Caney Creek increased by 146 acres while Little Lake Creek and Lewis Creek decreased by 19 and 17 acres, respectively. The northern Cagle/Stubblefield area remained the same. TPWD reported that Hydrilla is growing an average of 2 feet tall in waters less than 8 feet deep, and is growing an average of 4 to 5 feet tall in waters greater than 8 feet deep.

As its proposed plan to address this Hydrilla increase, TPWD agreed to permit the addition of 24,000 White Amur…..increasing the White Amur stocking rate from 42 fish/acre to 50 fish/acre. TPWD has taken a “measured approach” since the two-year Lake Conroe Aquatic Management Plan was initiated. This “measured approach” was adopted, in large part, to avoid overstocking the Lake with White Amur and damaging native vegetation in the Lake. Since Hydrilla has only continued to increase throughout TPWD’s “measured approach”, TPWD has increased their stocking rate of fish/acre from 9 to 14 to 22 to 29 to 36 to 40 to 42, and now, to 50. Where and when will this end?

The LCA listened to TPWD’s presentation as well as the opinions of SJRA, the independent consultant and angling organizations. Upon processing all of this new information, the LCA determined IT DOES NOT SUPPORT THIS PROPOSAL. While the LCA does not hold a specific scientific basis for its proposal, the LCA requested that TPWD modify the stocking rate to 60 fish/acre….which would require TPWD to permit the addition of 40,000 White Amur. As no one truly knows the number of White Amur it will take to reduce Hydrilla to “40 acres or less” (I’ve removed the “by March, 2008” in TPWD and SJRA’s Management Plan as it won’t happen) while not significantly damaging native vegetation, the LCA believes a more aggressive approach is necessary NOW.

To summarize a few of the LCA’s opinions used in presenting our proposal of increasing the stocking rate to 60 fish/acre and disagreeing with TPWD’s proposal of 50 fish/acre, please find the following:

· Spring growing season will soon be upon us. This stocking represents the last opportunity to get the fish in the Lake before spring arrives. Fish stocked later in the year may not be large enough and appetite-aggressive enough to provide value in 2008.

· Given Hydrilla has increased from 470 acres to 2,050 acres as TPWD has added White Amur with a “measured approach” over the past 2 years, their approach hasn’t worked and a more aggressive approach is appropriate.

· TPWD has based their stocking permits based on the historic scientific data they have gathered from Texas lakes and other research. For some unknown reason, that science has not seemed to apply to Lake Conroe. A departure from that science seems appropriate.

· TPWD would be the first to tell you that they don’t know the correct number of White Amur it will take to control our Hydrilla infestation. Can we risk erring on the conservative side and having to add even more fish down the road?

· As stated by one attendee of today’s meeting, “Throw out science at this point and go with what we’ve experienced on Lake Conroe for two years.”

· As stated by the independent consultant today, “When old science doesn’t work, it becomes time to venture into the world of new science.”

· The potential of enduring a third consecutive year of serious Hydrilla infestation on Lake Conroe is unacceptable. If we thought having a 1,780 acre infestation in July, 2007 was bad, how will we feel about the hypothetical infestation of 3,000 acres this summer?

· And if we reach that hypothetical infestation of 3,000 acres, how many White Amur and herbicides will it take to solve the problem? And who will be expected to pay the enormous future cost of clean-up?

To this end, WE IMPLORE TPWD AND SJRA TO AGREE TO PERMIT THE STOCKING OF 40,000 WHITE AMUR AT THIS TIME AS REQUESTED BY THE LCA.

JANUARY WHITE AMUR RELEASE:

15,775 White Amur were released the week of January 21. This release represents a “mortality stocking” (meaning a replacement of the estimated number of fish which have died since the last mortality stocking) and not an increase in the number of White Amur per hydrilla infested acre. The White Amur were released as follows: 2,100 Little Lake Creek, 7,575 Lewis Creek, 2,100 Caney Creek and 4,000 Cagle/Stubblefield. The cost of these White Amur was $5.00/fish, and the cost was shared 50/50 between SJRA and the LCA.

WHITE AMUR CALCULATION:

Based on White Amur stockings to date and the estimated mortality rate of these fish of 32% per year, we would calculate that 102,000 have been placed in the Lake since 2006 and that 20,000 of these fish have died (through illness, predation by larger fish or predation by various species of birds on the Lake). This would leave 82,000 White Amur feeding upon 1,940 hydrilla infested acres, or 42 fish/acre, through December, 2007.

TPWD HYDRILLA SURVEY:

TPWD concluded its January, 2008 hydrilla survey and reported an estimated 2,052 acres of hydrilla infestation on the Lake. Previous surveys have been as follows:

· 1999….20 acres

· 2001…..80 acres

· 2004…..150 acres

· March, 2006…..470 acres

· July, 2006…..740 acres

· September, 2006…..1,200 acres

· March, 2007…..1,900 acres

· May, 2007…..1,380 acres

· July, 2007…..1,780 acres

· December, 2007…..1,940 acres

· January, 2008…..2,050 acres

NATIVE VEGETATION BEING PLANTED IN LAKE CONROE:

TPWD and SJRA have been establishing native vegetation (those plants native, but not invasive, to the Texas ecosystem) in Lake Conroe for over ten (10) years now. TPWD performs in-depth surveys to determine the quantity and type of native vegetation in the Lake to identify positive or negative trends. The Seven Coves Bass Club is a new partner in this program re-establishing native vegetation.

Most, if not all, of the plantings are done in the upper end of the Lake. The only exception to this policy would be where a homeowner group in the lower end of the Lake specifically requested plantings in their area. In questioning TPWD and SJRA about plantings in the lower end, I received this response: “Regarding planting vegetation in the lower areas of the reservoir, it would have to be a case where there is a substantial number of homeowners (or a substantial amount of shoreline owned by a few property owners) who want plants established in front of their property. In that case, we would work with the homeowners regarding establishment (species planted, cages, etc.). Otherwise, plantings will be conducted around the National Forest.”

The primary plant utilized for these plantings has been Vallisneria Americana (more commonly referred to as “tape grass”). TPWD, in conjunction with SJRA and the Corps of Engineers Lewisville Aquatic Ecosystem Research Facility, have been planting Vallisneria in Lake Conroe for over ten (10) years. TPWD states that “Although Vallisneria is established in Lake Conroe, it has caused no problems.” TPWD also sites research performed by Dr. Richard Ott (and his Doctoral) which involved the ability of Vallisneria to aid in limiting Hydrilla establishment.

Further comments from TPWD include: “Native vegetation is good for aquatic ecosystems. Native plants help prevent erosion, stabilize banks, clear the water, improve water quality, and improve fish and wildlife habitat without creating major access problems like Hydrilla does.”

In questioning TPWD about the timing of working towards native vegetation plantings BEFORE the Hydrilla, Water Hyacinth and Giant Salvinia infestations are under control, TPWD responded: “The development of a healthy native plant community is not contingent on reaching our goals for Hydrilla. In fact, as we have talked about before, there is evidence that a healthy native plant community can help slow the spread of Hydrilla.” It would be correct that the Aquatic Management Plan for Lake Conroe for the two (2) years ending March, 2008 states goals of “reducing Hydrilla to 40 acres or less by March, 2008” AND establishing a healthy native plant community.

When asked who would pay for clean-up if native plantings got out-of-control and became invasive, TPWD responded “TPWD will not ask the LCA for any money to clean-up native vegetation. Except in very limited areas, it has been our experience that native vegetation simply does not create the same problems created by Hydrilla.”

What does the LCA think about all of this? Among our concerns are the introduction of plants which may become invasive. During previous attempts to establish native vegetation on Lake Conroe, both Musk Grass and Southern Naiad (bushy pondweed) were present as either plants and/or seeds in the transplant materials. These pioneer species benefited from the protected environment of cages and spread very rapidly. It is arguable that further native plantings may have similar unintended consequences. If you’ve had either Musk Grass or Bushy Pondweed around your lakefront, you can attest to the invasive nature of these plants and the detriment caused to navigation, aesthetics and lake use.

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SUMMARY OF LCA ANNUAL MEETING

Held January 18, 2008

LCA MEMBER VOTE ON 2008 LCA BOARD OF DIRECTORS:

We’d like to thank our Members for their active participation in returning proxies for 2008 LCA Board of Director elections. Of the 1,072 proxies mailed to our Members, 319 completed proxies were received (far more than last year and more than enough for a valid election per the LCA By-Laws). The LCA Board accepted your nominations and presents its 2008 LCA Board of Directors as follows: Gene Barrington, Mike Bleier, Tom Butz, Dawn Cleboski, Gene Colbert, Rich Cutler, Jim Pohoski, Ben Richardson, Stan Sproba, Colin Stead and Sue Wheatley.

LCA OFFICER ELECTIONS:

Subsequent to the LCA Annual Meeting and its Directors being elected, the LCA Board voted on its 2008 Officers. The following Directors accepted those nominations as follows: Mike Bleier (President), Ben Richardson (Vice President), Tom Butz (Treasurer) and Sue Wheatley (Secretary).

AUDIT OF LCA:

The LCA has selected a local accounting firm to prepare an audit of the records of the LCA for the period September 1, 2005 through December 31, 2007. The estimated cost of this audit is $2,000, and the LCA Board felt it was money well spent to assure its Members that their contributions of over $400,000 during this period were handled properly.

Unaudited, internally-prepared financial statements for CY2006 and CY2007 reflect Member Contributions of $404,000 less $355,000 in Expenses (producing a net increase in cash of $49,000 during these two years). Expenses consisted of $253,000 for White Amur, $71,000 for Herbicide Treatments, $26,000 for Fund Raising Printing/Postage and $5,000 for Administrative Expenses (legal fees, insurance, tax preparation). We are very pleased that Administrative Expenses totaled only 1.2% of all Member Contributions. No salaries are paid by the LCA as all Officers and Directors operate on a volunteer basis.

HERBICIDE TREATMENTS:

In its somewhat dormant state throughout Winter, Hydrilla is not treated with herbicides. While Water Hyacinth can still be seen around the Lake, it is not treated during Winter months because it’s green growth will die in cold conditions. And, since Water Hyacinth reproduces through seeds thrown off by those “pretty purple flowers”, herbicide applications will do nothing to harm those seeds on the Lake bottom which can live and produce new plants for up to the next seven (7) years. Since Giant Salvinia can survive the cold Winter temperatures and reproduces through exponential leaf regeneration and fragmentation, this invasive species will be treated with herbicides during the Winter; but effective treatment can only occur on sunny, calm days (not too many of those so far).

FUND RAISING FROM OTHER-THAN-YOU:

We have seen no funding from the State of Texas. TPWD stated that funding applications totaling $150,000 have been completed by TPWD and are “sitting on desks” waiting for approval and funding. We’ll see.

Montgomery County commits $25,000 per year for Aquatic Plant Management on Lake Conroe and increased that one-time to $100,000 last year. In talking to members of Commissioners Court, the LCA has been asked to continue to provide Commissioners Court with updates on the Lake condition and funding needs for 2008. Until Spring, 2008 surveys are concluded and the level of Hydrilla infestation is determined, the LCA does not see additional funding from Montgomery County as feasible. Should the worse scenario come true and Hydrilla infestation return aggressively in the Spring, I’m confident that Judge Sadler, Commissioner Meador and the other Commissioners will appropriate funds beyond their $25,000 commitment.

The LCA regularly communicates with Senator Nichols and Representative Creighton to apprise them of the situation and the need for State funding sources. I find them very attentive to the situation and determined to identify State funds to assist with our various invasive weed infestations.

No Federal funding has been obtained.

OTHER DISCUSSION TOPICS:

In addition to the above, the following topics were discussed at the LCA Annual Meeting (and are addressed above in this Update):

· Native grasses being planted in Lake Conroe

· White Amur stockings and mortality

· Angler organizations and their position in this issue

· Expectations for February 5 meeting between TPWD, SJRA, LCA and angling organizations

Thank you for your perseverance in following the significant quantity of information provided in this Update. I will report back with you shortly once a decision is made by TPWD and SJRA on the LCA’s proposal for 40,000 White Amur. We very much appreciate your support.

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association