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