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

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

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

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

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

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

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) completed its May, 2007 Hydrilla Survey for Lake Conroe and reported its results (and proposed actions) today at a meeting between TPWD, the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA), the Lake Conroe Association (LCA) and several local residents and businessmen who round out the team who meet every two months to discuss TPWD surveys. TPWD reported its first decline in Hydrilla on Lake Conroe since 1996, and accounted for this success by the combined program of White Amur grass carp and herbicides over the past year. While the March, 2007 survey reported an estimated 1,870 infested Hydrilla acres, the May, 2007 survey reports an estimated 1,380 infested Hydrilla acres….a reduction of 490 acres, or 26%.

Based on this reported information, TPWD does not recommend the addition of further White Amur at this time. TPWD stated that should their July, 2007 survey indicate an increase in the number of Hydrilla infested acres from the May, 2007 total, they would then recommend an appropriate White Amur stocking to recognize the increase.

TPWD stated that they have applied consistent principles in calculating the number of Hydrilla infested acres throughout each survey, and that they have checked their GPS (Global Positioning System) data carefully to assure the accuracy of the data. They feel very confident in the accuracy of this and previous surveys. They are pleased to have directly observed reduction of specific Hydrilla “mats” by the feeding activity of White Amur, and such observations have been noted by SJRA personnel as well.

In an effort to present comparable data between the March, 2007 and May, 2007 surveys, SJRA did not apply Hydrilla herbicides during this period (which would have driven down the May, 2007 survey and tainted reported results). Any herbicide applications observed during this two (2) month period were being applied to Giant Salvinia and Water Hyacinth, and were herbicides which did not affect Hydrilla. Subsequent to the completion of the May, 2007 survey, Hydrilla herbicide applications have commenced.

“BUT THE HYDRILLA LOOKS MUCH WORSE NOW THAN IT DID IN MARCH.”

“HAVE YOU DRIVEN OVER THE BRIDGES AT LITTLE LAKE CREEK OR LEWIS CREEK? HOW CAN YOU TELL ME IT’S GETTING BETTER SINCE MARCH?”

“YOU OBVIOUSLY DON’T DO YOUR SURVEYS AROUND ANY OF OUR BOAT DOCKS BECAUSE I CAN’T EVEN GET OUT OF MY BOAT SLIP, AND I COULD GET MY BOAT OUT IN MARCH.”

I was right there with you in ALL of these comments. I live on Lake Conroe, am very upset about the condition of our Lake. I would have guaranteed you that the survey results would show an increase in the number of Hydrilla infested acres. The LCA was thoroughly prepared to fight for more White Amur when those results were presented.

The explanation provided by TPWD and SJRA in response to “THEN WHY DOES IT STILL LOOK SO BAD?” focuses primarily on the fact that White Amur (and fish in general) prefer the cooler water during our warm months. TPWD and SJRA report that the White Amur are eating the Hydrilla from the deeper water and moving closer to the shoreline as each week passes. I’d have to say that the reasoning makes sense.

“SO WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO TO PROVIDE SOME RELIEF FOR ALL OF US ENDURING THE HYDRILLA AT OUR BOAT DOCKS AND IN THE SHALLOWER WATERS OF THE LAKE?”

The treatment proposal presented calls for significant Hydrilla herbicide applications throughout the Summer and Fall….to be applied from the infested shoreline outward. The approach would intend to provide immediate relief and decrease the overall amount of Hydrilla that the White Amur must ultimately consume. As cooler temperatures return to our shallower waters, the White Amur should continue their eating towards our shorelines and reduce the Hydrilla infestation to “40 acres or less by March, 2008” (the Lake Conroe Hydrilla Management Plan and Lake Conroe Aquatic Vegetation Management Plan objectives).

Obviously, this entire proposal hinges on the accuracy of the TPWD survey. The LCA has requested that TPWD provide its survey data for March, 2007 and May, 2007 to the LCA for verification, and TPWD has agreed (and, in fact, the first electronic data was received from TPWD this evening….with the balance to come tomorrow). With this data, we intend to identify the significant locations where Hydrilla reduction has been observed by TPWD. SJRA has agreed to provide us with an aerial flyover to review these specific locations and confirm the reduction of Hydrilla. Further, watercraft will be utilized by the LCA to verify similar data and get a view directly from the Lake. The LCA (to the best of its ability) hopes to report that the survey data does indeed support the conclusion that we are experiencing a reduction in Lake Conroe’s Hydrilla infestation….news that would be wonderful to all of us. We hope to provide that opinion to you within one week.

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SELECTED 2007 SURVEY DATA:

Little Lake Creek…..677 acres March, 592 acres May

Lewis Creek…..267 acres March, 274 acres May

Caney Creek…..657 acres March, 372 acres May

Atkins Creek…..101 acres March, 3 acres May

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HYDRILLA HERBICIDE APPLICATIONS:

Herbicides being used include Aquathol K spray, Aquathol K granular and Sonar, and have been applied for approximately two weeks now. SJRA has two sprayboat crews out currently. Now that the TPWD survey is completed and personnel have been freed up, TPWD has committed one sprayboat crew. An outside contractor with one sprayboat crew has now been hired to assist as well (although they are committed to spraying Lake Conroe’s Giant Salvinia and Water Hyacinth for the next four weeks….see below), and this contractor MAY become available to be hired by individual homeowners or businesses for herbicide treatment of their specific property at the homeowner’s or business’ cost. You should note that Hydrilla herbicide applications will typically occur on Monday through Wednesday….allowing a couple of days (as recommended by herbicide manufacturers) before high weekend Lake use by swimmers, anglers and watercraft users

The projected cost of Hydrilla herbicide treatment has not been established for 2007, but estimates will place that amount well over $300,000 in our opinion. Projections are being developed. Expenditures for Hydrilla herbicide treatments will be limited, ultimately, by the amount of available funds from SJRA, Montgomery County and LCA donations.

The LCA will not spend all of its resources on herbicides alone. LCA monies will be set aside as a contingency for future White Amur stockings which may be required should Hydrilla infestation once again increase, and which will be required to account for ongoing White Amur mortality.

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GIANT SALVINIA AND WATER HYACINTH HERBICIDE APPLICATIONS:

Giant Salvinia and Water Hyacinth often live together in the same areas. Giant Salvinia is being controlled reasonably well, but Water Hyacinth has aggressively returned this year. Overall, a combined 250 acres of the weeds has been estimated.

Giant Salvinia and Water Hyacinth have been treated earlier in the year by SJRA at the most highly infested locations. For the next four (4) weeks, an independent contractor has been hired by SJRA to exclusively treat all 250 acres of this infestation (thereby allowing the SJRA spray crews to dedicate their efforts on Hydrilla). This four (4) week treatment is estimated to cost $52,000, and the cost will be shared equally by SJRA and the LCA. Further treatments will occur throughout the year as needed.

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WHERE WILL THE MONEY COME FROM?

If I were a good Fund Raiser, I would probably open this LCA President’s Update with this section….but I thought the information needed to be presented first. SJRA has and will fund White Amur and herbicides up to its budget for Aquatic Plant Management for Lake Conroe. The LCA successfully requested an increase in funding from Montgomery County from $25,000 previously to $100,000 for the year ending August 31, 2007. Presently, ALL OTHER FUNDING MUST COME FROM THE LCA THROUGH THE GENEROUS DONATIONS OF ITS RESIDENT AND BUSINESS MEMBERS.

THE LCA 2007 FUND RAISING GOAL HAS BEEN SET AT $240,000. Residential Fund Raising Letters have been mailed to over 13,000 homes in the Lake Conroe area during the past four (4) weeks, and we are so appreciative to our Residential Members who have contributed in excess of $60,000 in these first four (4) weeks. A Business Fund Raising Program has been initiated to raise awareness within the Lake Conroe business community outlining the importance of a healthy Lake Conroe to the success of local businesses, and we thank the local businesses who have generously supported us through donations in excess of $20,000 during these past four (4) weeks. WILL YOU BE SENDING YOUR CHECK SOON TO FUND THE $160,000 OR MORE STILL NEEDED BY THE LCA THIS YEAR? WE SURELY NEED YOUR SUPPORT NOW!!!

The LCA is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization and your Residential or Business contribution should be tax deductible (please consult with your financial advisor). Historically, ninety-six percent (96%) of all monies contributed to the LCA are utilized for the purchase of White Amur and herbicides and their related fund raising costs. The LCA is audited every two (2) years.

Contributions can be mailed to Lake Conroe Association, P.O. Box 376, Willis, Texas 77378-9998. To become a Residential or Business Member of the LCA for 2007, please make your minimum contribution of $100 or $300, respectively. Of course, contributions of any dollar amount will be graciously appreciated.

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GOT ANY QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS ?:

You can always reach us through our LCA Website at “lakeconroeassociation.com”.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME AND WE WILL UPDATE YOU NEXT WEEK WITH OUR REVIEW OF TPWD’S MAY, 2007 HYDRILLA SURVEY RESULTS. UNTIL THEN, ENJOY THE LAKE AND BE SAFE.

Mike Bleier

President, Lake Conroe Association

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

The Lake Conroe Association (LCA) met with representatives of Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPWD), the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA), bass fishing organizations and The Courier today. The primary discussion topic was the hydrilla infestation on Lake Conroe.

TPWD reported its July, 2007 hydrilla survey results of 1,776 hydrilla infested acres…..up from 1,380 acres in May, 2007. This represents an increase of 396 acres, or 28%. Previous surveys of hydrilla infested acres reported 470 acres in March, 2006, 740 acres in July, 2006, 1,200 acres in September, 2006, 1,900 acres in March, 2007, and 1,380 acres in May, 2007. While TPWD points out that the number of hydrilla infested acres today is less than in its March, 2007 survey, the LCA is very disappointed that the infestation increased during the past two months. With approximately 50,000 White Amur grass carp (estimated number alive after mortality) in the Lake and hydrilla herbicides being applied, we ALL hoped for a decrease in our hydrilla problem.

In response to their survey results, TPWD has agreed to permit the stocking of 25,364 additional White Amur at this time. Compared to the approximate 50,000 White Amur alive currently in Lake Conroe, this represents a 50% increase in White Amur. While contracts have not yet been signed, we expect the White Amur to be delivered from Arkansas fisheries via several truckloads beginning in 2 – 3 weeks. Special provisions will be made by the fishery and its delivery company to transport the White Amur during this very hot time of year.

25,364 White Amur (minimum 12 inches long) delivered in hot August will cost approximately $150,000. SJRA will fund 50% of this cost and, thanks to the generous donations of our LCA Members, the LCA will fund the remaining 50%, or $75,000. This payment will seriously diminish the LCA’s available funds and, accordingly, we will intensify our Residential and Business Fund Raising Campaigns. Without continued contributions, the LCA will be limited in its ability to fund future treatment proposals, if needed.

To become a Member of the LCA, an individual is asked to donate $100 or more and a business $300 or more. Of course, all contributions are welcomed and greatly appreciated. As the LCA is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit corporation, donations should be tax deductible. Donations can be mailed to: Lake Conroe Association, P.O. Box 376, Willis, Texas 77378-9998.

As I will certainly be asked how I feel about TPWD’s proposal to add 25,364 White Amur at this time, I will have to answer this question in two statements. First, it is unfortunate that a more aggressive approach was not taken by TPWD initially. With only 470 hydrilla infested acres in March, 2006, we should not have had to stock in excess of 85,000 White Amur (number purchased before mortality) to solve this infestation (if, indeed, this number does “solve” the infestation). Time, energy and money was wasted; and I hope lessons are learned so that this does not happen to other Texas lakes in the future. Second, a 50% increase in the stocking of White Amur versus a 28% increase in the hydrilla infestation demonstrates that TPWD acknowledges the problem and desires to solve it. As no one knows the exact number of White Amur it will take to solve the infestation, I feel that a 50% increase represents an appropriately-aggressive approach today.

If you have been following this hydrilla infestation, you are aware that the Lake Conroe Aquatic Management Plan covering April 1, 2006 through March 31, 2008 calls for the reduction of hydrilla to “40 acres or less by March, 2008”. So, go ahead and ask your next question: “Do you think that this goal of 40 acres or less WILL be achieved?” When Dr. Earl Chilton of TPWD was asked this question today, he responded that he felt the objective of “40 acres or less” was still achievable. I would be very pleased if this goal were reached, but find it unlikely that a decrease from today’s 1,776 acres to a goal of “40 acres or less” in seven months can occur. I hope that I am proven wrong. While I expect TPWD and SJRA to do their utmost to achieve that goal of “40 acres or less”, a significant reduction between now and March, 2008 would set the stage for success later in 2008. If 75,000 White Amur could reduce hydrilla from 1,776 acres to 200 acres (just to pick a number out of the air) by March, 2008, then I’d anticipate that those same 75,000 White Amur would most likely complete their job shortly thereafter and allow us to enjoy our Lake more fully, and at less cost, in 2008. This is not a scientific explanation but, rather, just my opinion…..which LCA Members ask me on the golf course and at the supermarket and over the internet and “in my face”. I’m not Johnny Carson’s “Karnak” on predicting the future, but I’m sharing my opinion because you ask me for it. Let’s just all hope that the plan in place today succeeds.

Thank you for listening. Thank you for your contributions. All of us at the LCA are doing our best to assist in solving this hydrilla infestation and return Lake Conroe to its magnificent beauty. Enjoy the balance of your summer on the Lake.

Mike Bleier

President, Lake Conroe Association

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

Hoping you’ve enjoyed the Summer. Just some quick facts on Lake Conroe ’s hydrilla infestation and treatment to keep you up to date. Here’s what I know.

As of July, 2007, hydrilla infestation was surveyed to total 1,776 infested acres. Infestation by area was 564 acres in Caney Creek (northwestern arm of the Lake ), 553 acres in Little Lake Creek (primarily Bentwater, Walden, Grand Harbor and up to the bridge into Montgomery ), 295 acres in Lewis Creek (primarily Lake Conroe Hills, Pt. Aquarius and up to the small 1097 bridge at the Shell station), and 364 acres in other areas.

The September, 2007 hydrilla survey was not done by Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPWD). A date when a survey will be completed by TPWD has not been established.

TPWD permitted the release of 25,364 white amur grass carp after releasing its July, 2007 hydrilla survey results. To date, releases have been as follows:

· September 13….3,200 western Bentwater, 1,800 Bentwater small island and 500 Bentwater marina…..for a total of 5,500 (to cover “Little Lake Creek”)

· September 20….. 3,250 Lake Conroe Hills, 1,625 Anchorage Marina and 1,625 Pt. Aquarius…..for a total of 6,500 (to cover “ Lewis Creek ”)

· September 27…..3,200 Scott’s Ridge Nat’l Park and 3,200 northern Caney Creek….for a total of 6,400 (to cover “Caney Creek”)

· October 4…..estimated 4,000 tomorrow to Cagle Park (northeastern arm of the Lake with a significant new infestation during Summer, 2007) and possible other selected, appropriate locations

· October 11-18…..balance of 2,964…..release location not yet established

I know that the Lake still doesn’t look wonderful where infested. I know that hydrilla infestations have spread to new locations during 2007. I know that many are tired of seeing and dealing with the hydrilla…..as am I. But here is the “theoretic good news”:

· In October, 2006, we had 26,000 fish eating 1,200 acres

· In May, 2007, we had 55,000 fish eating 1,900 acres

· The July, 2007 survey reported 1,800 acres….meaning no “net growth” during the fastest growing months of hydrilla….meaning the fish were eating the hydrilla sufficiently to stop further expansion (with the help of herbicides)

· While no survey was completed, I’d “guess” that our hydrilla infestation has remained at 1,800 acres today…..again not expanding during peak growing months (with the help of herbicides)

· With the newest releases summarized above, we will have 75,000 fish eating 1,800 acres….and doing so when hydrilla is NOT in growth mode

· With hydrilla growing at a slow pace over the next 4-5 months, these 75,000 fish SHOULD reduce the number of infested acres significantly

· Should 75,000 fish reduce hydrilla to 1,400 acres (just to pick a number), then 75,000 fish will eat 1,400 acres EVEN FASTER. And should those same 75,000 fish then reduce hydrilla to 1,000 acres, then 75,000 fish will eat 1,000 acres FASTER THAN FASTER.

At least I can be optimistic that we’re headed on the right path. I doubt that the stated goal (40 acres or less of hydrilla by March, 2008) of the Lake Conroe Aquatic Management Plan co-authored by TPWD and the San Jacinto River Authority will be achieved, but hydrilla reduction WILL happen and 2008 will be a better year for all of us.

Glad to share some information and thoughts with you. Enjoy the beautiful weather ahead.

Mike Bleier

President, Lake Conroe Association

More carp to be added to Lake Conroe

Fish used to combat growing hydrilla problem

By KIMBERLY STAUFFER and BETH KUHLES

Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

The San Jacinto River Authority and Texas Parks and Wildlife officials decided to dump 13,800 grass carp into congested Lake Conroe to combat spreading hydrilla after a September survey showed rapid growth.

The fish are expected to be introduced into the lake sometime in the next month.

In July, hydrilla infested 739 acres of Lake Conroe. By September, the foreign plant had spread to 1,167 acres. Earl Chilton, aquatic habitat coordinator for Texas Parks and Wildlife, said the stocking rate is now 23.1 fish per acre, a marked increase from earlier this year when officials began treating the lake with five fish per acre. Officials began a conservative assault on hydrilla in March with 4,300 fish and now, factoring in a 30 percent annual mortality rate, Lake Conroe will have about 27,000 grass carp.

Maximum approved

Montgomery County commissioners have joined the battle over hydrilla on Lake Conroe, urging officials to use whatever means necessary, including the maximum number of plant-eating fish — 30,000 — to preserve the lake.

Commissioners passed a resolution allowing the maximum number of fish allowable under the Hydrilla Management Plan previously approved by Texas Parks and Wildlife to be deposited in Lake Conroe.

Mike Bleier, president of the Lake Conroe Resident Association, said the organization is “extremely happy with the (lake officials’) decision.”

“With the announcement of 13,800 fish to be released, it doubles the amount of fish in the lake eating hydrilla, and that can only be a good thing,” he said.

Bleier said the lake weed has experienced 58 percent growth since July, which severely hinders lake usage and recreation.

“The lake appearance in certain places is not what it could be,” he said. “The use of motor craft in the lake is more difficult … because of increased number of acres (of hydrilla). It was a bit discouraging to see this growth. It’s encouraging that (Texas Parks and Wildlife) is at least acknowledging it.”

While not poisonous, the plant grows from buried bulbs in the lake bottom to the surface, developing into dense mats that prevent homeowners and tourists from swimming and using boats and jet skis.

Plant growth rate

The high growth rate is attributable to the lower water levels in the 21,000-acre man-made lake, with the combination of clear, shallow water and penetrating sunlight and runoff from local golf courses, residences and businesses contributing abundant nutrients.

Chilton said Texas Parks and Wildlife officials will conduct three surveys each year to measure hydrilla growth to determine if any fish need to be added to the lake. Surveys are planned for May, July and September.

“We’ll wait until the survey next spring to determine whether we need more fish and determine how well the natives (plants) are growing. If the hydrilla is growing at a significant rate earlier in the year, we may go ahead and do a March or April survey. It just depends on how the lake is doing.”

Like Lake Austin, which has endured similar hydrilla infestations, Chilton said battling the weed could take up to two years using a conservative approach to avoid overstocking the lake, a mistake officials made in the early 1980s that ultimately destroyed Lake Conroe’s native vegetation.

In the late 1970s, Lake Conroe became infested with the Southeast Asian plant, which eventually covered 45 percent of the water. Officials treated the outbreak with herbicides until the plant consumed about 7,500 acres just three years after the initial expansion.

In reaction, lake officials dumped almost 300,000 grass carp in Lake Conroe. The fish, also known as white amur, eliminated the foreign plant, but the severe overstocking decimated the native vegetation when the hydrilla, the grass carp’s favored food, disappeared.

Bleier said he believes officials have had to change their moderate stance on fighting hydrilla because of unexpectedly fast growth.

“I think the hydrilla unfortunately is growing faster than they had hoped for,” he said. “Once they measured that growth, they responded accordingly with an adequate number of fish. There were signs of hydrilla growth and expansion (two months ago), so I think their conservative approach couldn’t be maintained any longer because of rapid growth being seen out our windows every day.”

Chilton said the warm weather months of July, August and September contributed to the fast hydrilla growth, but the onset of cooling winter temperatures should slow the weed.

“We believe it’s probably slowed down its growth rate,” he said. “You should expect some kind of dieback in winter depending on the weather. It’s still increasing, but at a significantly slower rate than before we put the grass carp in.”

Maintaining lake’s health

Lake officials will continue to administer herbicides in conjunction with the plant-eating fish, Kellum said.

“It’s an ongoing maintenance situation,” he said. “We’re using herbicides to maintain the health of the lake.”

Chilton said he hopes the recent measures to impede hydrilla expansion quells Lake Conroe residents’ concerns with officials’ reactionary tactics.

“It’s hard to tell. I imagine some of the residents may be pleased and willing to wait until next summer to see how this number of fish is doing,” he said. “Other ones may be some who are still upset and want more fish. It’s difficult.”

Lake Conroe Association members campaigned for 30,000 fish while lake officials continued a conservative program to treat the lake. The association held a fundraiser to raise money for grass carp and hydrilla control. Residents and businesses contributed $191,000 to the campaign, and the San Jacinto River Authority agreed to pay half the cost for purchasing the fish.

“Getting 90 percent of our goal in the first year is a proactive approach and we’re pleased (Texas Parks and Wildlife) made that decision,” he said. “The winter is going to bring cooler temperatures, which will slow hydrilla growth, and we’ll have 27,000 fish in the lake to start eating away.”

kimberly.stauffer@chron.com

More Amur slated for Lake

By: Howard Roden, Conroe Courier staff

10/03/2006

LAKE CONROE – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will deposit another 13,800 hydrilla-eating fish into Lake Conroe, but the agency denied it was pressured by lakefront property owners to meet their demands.

That amount of white Amur – scheduled to be released over the next month – will more than double the current grass carp population of 13,248. It also satisfied an earlier demand by the Lake Conroe Association that the TPWD stock a total of at least 27,000 fish this year.

The LCA, a nonprofit group comprised primarily of lakefront property owners and businesses, had informed parks and wildlife officials it would abandon a cooperative relationship with the TPWD if the organization’s arbitrary number wasn’t attained.

Meanwhile, representatives from bass fishing groups had previously voiced their support for controlling hydrilla in Lake Conroe – as long as the number of fish required was validated by scientific calculations.

As it turned out Monday during a meeting at the San Jacinto River Authority headquarters, both sides got what they wanted.

In announcing that hydrilla now infested a total of 1,167 surfaces acres of Lake Conroe, TPWD Program Specialist Earl Chilton said the latest, and largest, white Amur release was based on attaining a “stocking rate” of 23.1 fish per acre. That rate represented the mean average of the six stocking rates at Lake Austin, where the TPWD used the fish to successfully combat hydrilla, he said.

“We could have used a higher or lower stocking rate, but this (23.1 fish per acre) was what worked over a period of a year-and-a-half,” Chilton said.

Contacted in Chicago, LCA President Mike Bleier said the organization had requested the release of the 30,000 white Amur that was part of the TPWD’s 2006 aquatic plant management plan for Lake Conroe.

“The (Montgomery) county commissioners and (state Senator-elect) Robert Nichols had been pushing for the 30,000 as well,” Bleier said. “We (the LCA) didn’t think 27,000 fish were going to denude the lake. That’s an adequate number of fish to work with during the winter without endangering the lake.”

Bleier also denied the parks and wildlife department “yielded” to any pressure.

“They did their math to a significant problem,” he said. “The LCA is okay with their calculations.”

Chilton said the TPWD would have been “just as happy” to go wherever the data of its September hydrilla survey would have suggested.

“There’s always a little bit of a leeway in calculations, but if the amount (of fish) would have been significantly below (27,000) we would have stayed with that data, regardless of the reaction,” he said.

Texas Black Bass Unlimited President Ed Parten did not voice direct opposition to the increase of fish into Lake Conroe.

“We want to control the hydrilla,” he said following the meeting. “Our only concern is that the parks and wildlife gets too far ahead of the curve and that 27,000 of the grass carp will still be in the lake next spring. If that happens, consumption will increase and we’ll see eradication in lieu of control. Then the native vegetation in the lake will be next.”

Results of the hydrilla survey conducted on eight days from Sept. 9-21 showed a 57 percent increase – 428 acres – in surface coverage. The majority of the fast-growing water weed was found in Little Lake Creek (526 acres). Other areas of significant infestation included Caney Creek (290 acres), Lewis Creek (178) and Del Lego (23).

Bryan District Fisheries Supervisor Mark Webb, who is in charge of the hydrilla surveys, said the parks and wildlife department is conducting “a balancing act” in order to get hydrilla under control.

“We’re hoping the carp gets ahead of the hydrilla between now and next spring,” he said. “We’re not sure exactly how the fish and vegetation is going to react (after this release).”

LCA director Ben Richardson, who attended Monday’s meeting, said he was “cautiously optimistic” over the TPWD’s latest recommendation.

“I think we got as much as we could’ve hoped for this year,” he said.

It was also revealed at the meeting that the LCA and the San Jacinto River Authority agreed to split the cost for the latest batch of white Amur. Based on $6 per fish, and a $2 per fish permitting fee paid to the TPWD, each group will spend approximately $56,000.

Richardson said the LCA has sufficient funds to cover its share, while Lake Conroe Division Manager Blake Kellum said the SJRA will use money from its aquatic plant management fund to buy fish.

Chilton said the TPWD was working on the 2007 version of its aquatic management plan for Lake Conroe. The next hydrilla survey is not to take place until May, but he said both his agency and the SJRA will monitor the lake until then.

“If anything gets out of control, we can always do another survey,” he said.

Howard Roden can be reached at hroden@hcnonline.com.

©Houston Community Newspapers Online 2006