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

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

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