LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association

SJRA joins the hunt for brackish water

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

By Howard Roden | 0 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY LAKE LEVEL SURVEY:

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

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

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

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

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

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

WATER MEETING CALLED BY JUDGE SADLER:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association

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

City of Houston May Request Water from Lake Conroe

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walden MUDs plan to purchase share of Huntsville wastewater

By Howard Roden | comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His remarks didn’t go unchallenged.

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

“I just told you,” Kleimann said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Howard Roden can be reached at hroden@hcnonline.com

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

It has been a beautiful, yet dry, Fall season so far.  I hope you’ve made your way outdoors to enjoy the lower temperatures, lower humidity and endless sunshine we’ve shared for the past six weeks or so.  But with “the good” usually comes “some bad”.  Officially in the Lake Conroe area, we’ve had only 2.83 inches of rain since September 1 and the lake level has dropped to a level of 199.36 as of today.  At this level, the lake is 1 foot 8 inches below its normal pool elevation of 201 feet.  Please be careful out there boating as submerged debris and stumps are much closer to the surface when the lake level is down.

With the lack of rainfall and dry conditions, Montgomery County was officially placed under a Burn Ban as of October 25.  Please resist burning your leaves or lighting that Fall bonfire as conditions are extremely hazardous.

The Lake Conroe Association (LCA) initiated its Annual Fund Raising Campaign on June 10 and identified its primary, immediate need to be monies to fund a study by Texas A&M University which will review future lake levels once water starts being removed by the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) in 2016 (further discussion of this Texas A&M study follows).  The LCA agreed to pay $66,000 of the $142,000 total study cost; with the balance funded by Montgomery County, the Cities of Conroe and Montgomery, various MUD’s, Lake Conroe Communities Network (LCCN) and other lake-related donors.  LCA’s Annual Fund Raising Campaign has raised $57,585 to date and $8,415 was paid from the LCA’s reserves to meet that $66,000 obligation.  We greatly appreciate the continued generosity of our LCA Members in donating $57,585 during these difficult economic times.  Should you have missed the LCA’s Annual Fund Raising Campaign and still desire to contribute, monies can be mailed payable to the “Lake Conroe Association” at PO Box 376, Willis, Texas  77378-9998.

The contract between Texas A&M University and Montgomery County for the above-referenced Lake Study was approved by Commissioners Court and executed by Montgomery County on September 27.  With SJRA prepared to initiate significant water removal in 2016 yet stating that the effects on Lake Conroe’s lake levels will be “minimal”, the Lake Study will review engineering studies commissioned by SJRA in an effort to understand and validate (or not validate) SJRA’s conclusions on future lake levels.  Should Texas A&M’s study conclude that lake levels may drop lower than predicted by SJRA, Texas A&M will also study the economic impact on our community, and Montgomery County as a whole, of lower lake levels.  The 16 month “Timeline of A&M Study of Economic Impact of SJRA’s Planned Lake Level Reductions” includes reviews of lake level studies, property value assessments, and sales tax revenue data; and also includes a survey of residents, business survey and a contemplated Town Hall Meeting.  The Lake Study including all elements listed here is to be completed by December, 2011.

As you’ve most likely read, water conservation has become a key element in both reducing our overall water consumption and potentially helping maintain lake levels in Lake Conroe.  LCCN (a local community organization) has spearheaded the water conservation topic and held several presentations to elected officials, MUD’s, and interested parties.  For more information about LCCN and their work on water conservation, you may review their website at www.lakeconroecn.com.

An invasive species named Zebra Mussels have been identified for the first time on Lake Conroe.  Zebra Mussels multiply quickly and have damaged many bodies of water in the U.S. and around the world (causing clogged intake pipes, damaging boat hulls, creating sharp surfaces on boat docks and lake floors, and altering water chemistry).  Fortunately, this case of Zebra Mussels was identified on the hull of a boat BEFORE it was launched into Lake Conroe thanks to an observant marina owner (and LCA Board Vice President).  In conjunction with Texas Parks & Wildlife and SJRA, the LCA has contributed $1,250 towards the creation and installation of 250 permanent signs around Lake Conroe at various access points to educate the public on the importance of inspecting your boat hull before launching that boat into any body of water.  For more information on Zebra Mussels, you can access www.texasinvasives.org.

Texas Parks & Wildlife completed its survey of aquatic vegetation on Lake Conroe in July, 2010 and reported only 0.02 acres of Hydrilla, 1.79acres of Giant Salvinia and 1.16 acres of Water Hyacinth…..ALL GREAT NEWS !!  Native vegetation (natural, beneficial plants) held steady at 150.21 acres.  Many thanks are due Texas Parks & Wildlife and SJRA for their efforts in controlling invasive aquatic vegetation on Lake Conroe, and to our LCA Members who have donated over $500,000 over the past four (4) years towards this cause.

As you may be aware, the primary method of controlling Hydrilla (which covered over 2,000 surface acres of Lake Conroe only two years ago) has been the purchase of 130,000 White Amur Grass Carp.  Based on a 32% estimated mortality per year and the fact that this species has been genetically-engineered so as not to produce offspring, Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPWD) estimates that 48,000 were still alive on May 31, 2010 and projects that 32,000, 22,000 and 15,000 grass carp will be alive on May 31 of 2011, 2012 and 2013, respectively.  When asked how it will calculate when to start adding new White Amur Grass Carp to Lake Conroe, TPWD responded “As soon as Hydrilla starts to expand into water beyond a few inches deep, it will likely be time to add more grass carp.  At that point, stocking calculations will be based on returning the number of grass carp per total surface acre to the most recent survey where Hydrilla was totally under control.  In this way, we hopefully will remain in a proactive mode instead of a reactive mode.”  The LCA meets regularly with TPWD and SJRA to discuss aquatic plant surveys and means by which to maintain a healthy Lake Conroe.

Well, that’s it for another edition of our LCA President’s Update.  You can review previous editions of these LCA President’s Updates, follow current topics of interest, and send us your comments at our website at www.lakeconroeassociation.com.  We’re wishing you a wonderful Fall season on the lake and thank you for your continued support.

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FURTHER THOUGHTS:  Please consider the following:

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

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

Mike Bleier, President

LakeConroeAssociation

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

The committee of Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPWD), San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA), Lake Conroe Association (LCA), and angler organizations including Seven Coves Bass Club received wonderful news from TPWD regarding Lake Conroe’s Hydrilla infestation. Hydrilla was reported to have decreased from 2,033 acres in January, 2008 to 363 acres in March, 2008 – the lowest Hydrilla acreage since 2005. Finally, some good news !!

TPWD described “schools of White Amur” traveling throughout the Lake and ravaging our nuisance, invasive weed. With approximately 110,000 White Amur still alive at this time (based on an estimated 32% mortality factor) and only 363 infested acres, the White Amur now hold a distinct advantage over Hydrilla in that they are currently stocked at 302 fish/acre. If 110,000 White Amur can devour 1,670 Hydrilla infested acres in two months, just think what those 110,000 White Amur can do to the remaining 363 acres. Even though we are just entering Hydrilla growing season as Lake temperatures warm and sunshine intensifies, we are cautiously optimistic that the Summer of 2008 will be much improved for all Lake users.

Concerns exist over the possibility that once the White Amur eat the majority of our Hydrilla, they will turn to other Lake vegetation as their food source. TPWD reported that White Amur like to eat Bushy Pond Weed, a plant that has caused certain portions of our Lake to become unattractive and less navigable. TPWD also stated that White Amur are less inclined to eat Coontail or Vallisneria – both plants that provide excellent fish habitat and improve water quality. TPWD is actively monitoring the condition of our native plant community and has enlisted the services of two Texas A&M graduate students to study various Lake conditions documented by them in 2007 and comparing that data to new data being gathered in 2008. TPWD stated they were optimistic that our native plant community would survive.

TPWD and SJRA will develop a new, written Aquatic Plant Management Plan for Lake Conroe as the current Plan expired March, 2008. The new Plan will call for surveys of Hydrilla and Giant Salvinia every two months. Should Hydrilla unexpectedly show signs of a “spike” in growth, TPWD has agreed that supplemental stockings of White Amur will not be ruled out. Further, TPWD said any such “spikes” would be dealt with “immediately” rather than taking a slower, measured approach as used throughout the past two (2) years.

The news about another invasive weed, Giant Salvinia, was less encouraging. Giant Salvinia has been reported to cover between 300 – 500 acres currently, and the plant is already actively growing with our warmer temperatures. Giant Salvinia is particularly dangerous for our Lake as it can double in size every three (3) days. SJRA has already initiated herbicide applications to Giant Salvinia, and is negotiating with a helicopter operator for aerial sprayings in the less populated areas like the northern National Forest shoreline. TPWD and SJRA are committed to attacking the Giant Salvinia problem immediately.

After LCA Members donated over $500,000 in the past two years and the combined team of SJRA and LCA have spent well over $1 million to control invasive weeds on Lake Conroe, some good news is finally on the financial horizon. TPWD had secured a $150,000 grant from US Fish & Wildlife for Aquatic Plant Management (APM) on Lake Conroe. Working with LCA and SJRA, Montgomery County has agreed to increase their contribution from their $25,000 budget to $55,000. The US Forest Service has concurred that a significant portion of the Hydrilla infestation is located along the shores of the National Forest and, in response, has agreed to contribute $16,000. The Seven Coves Bass Club, in a somewhat unprecedented move for an angling organization, donated $5,000 for APM. Senator Robert Nichols continues to press Austin for financial assistance for our Texas lakes and reports that the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee has given TPWD not greater than two months to draft a proposal on how funds appropriated to TPWD by the State of Texas can be allocated for APM in Texas lakes. These sources will certainly help ease the financial burden placed on the resources of Lake residents, businesses and SJRA, but will not eliminate the need for funds from the LCA.

The LCA will initiate its annual Fund Raising Campaign in May in an effort to replenish its depleted bank account and provide a fund for future, emergency needs should infestations of Hydrilla or Giant Salvinia need immediate attention. We do not desire to be in a position where funds are needed and the LCA cannot respond. The fund raising process takes about two months – much too long for any form of “immediate” response. We hope that you will consider to continue to support the LCA and its efforts to assist all Lake users. You will see fund raising correspondence in the mail shortly as we send letters to over 15,000 Lake residents and local businesses. I’d like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank those 250+ contributors who responded to the LCA’s February, 2008 Emergency Fund Raising request which enabled the LCA to pay for this last batch of much-needed 32,000 White Amur added in March, 2008.

Again, thank you for your support of the LCA. The teamwork exhibited between residents, businesses, TPWD, SJRA, LCA, angling organizations, Montgomery County, State representatives and The Courier has enabled us to close in on reaching our goal of “40 acres or less of Hydrilla” and should serve as a guideline for other Texas lakes should they encounter infestations in the future. We hope you enjoy a beautiful Lake Conroe for years to come.

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.lakeconroeassociation.com.

Mike Bleier

President, Lake Conroe Association

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Bleier

President, Lake Conroe Association

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

This brief update summarizes the LCA’s efforts and findings in reviewing Texas Parks & Wildlife’s (TPWD) May, 2007 Hydrilla survey.

Since TPWD released its survey information on June 14, 2007 which estimated a total of 1,380 infested Hydrilla acres, the LCA has endeavored to better understand the survey results. LCA Board Member Ben Richardson and his Dad, Dana, toured Little Lake Creek (primarily covering the infestations of Bentwater, Laketree and Grand Harbor) in their personal boat on June 15. Ben and I, along with the SJRA, toured Caney Creek via SJRA airboat on June 22. On that same day, SJRA and I toured Little Lake Creek for a further view of this highly infested area. On June 23, I toured Lewis Creek (to the best of my ability without getting stuck) in my personal boat. A helicopter flyover of the Lake was delayed last week due to lightning and storm concerns over most available days, and this flyover is trying to be rescheduled for next week. Local residents have also provided numerous reports on what they observed this week from their watercraft and lakefront property.

TPWD provided detailed maps of the heavily infested acreage and the estimated number of infested acres for each location. We checked their math, and understand where they arrived at their total of 1,380 infested acres.

With all of the above being said, there is no way for the LCA to concur with or refute TPWD’s estimate of 1,380 acres. Once on the Lake, the ability to discern a 10 acre infestation from a 20 acre infestation by sight is virtually impossible. Obviously, the same difficulty applies to 100 acre infestations. TPWD makes its assessments utilizing GPS (Global Positioning System) and measures the area by establishing the four corners (or even more coordinates where appropriate) of the infestation. We did not have a GPS system with us in any of the LCA trips on the Lake this week.

So, what can the LCA say? We definitively observed Hydrilla infested acreage that has been reduced by White Amur (and where no herbicides have been applied in 2007). Most of this activity was observed at the deeper edges of the infestation and not in the shallow waters near shores or boat docks. We further observed significant Hydrilla reduction in certain deeper areas where a combination of White Amur and herbicides appear to be making a difference. And, where SJRA has performed Hydrilla herbicide applications in the past ten (10) days, we certainly saw signs of Hydrilla reduction (as would be expected for the monies being spent on herbicides). SJRA and TPWD will be continuing their herbicide applications to shallower waters this coming week.

There is not much more to say at this time. Trying to utilize GPS in the coming week would not prove too valuable because the measurable benefits of White Amur versus herbicides would be difficult, at best, to verify with accuracy (remember, the May, 2007 survey was done PRIOR TO Hydrilla herbicide applications). TPWD will be performing its next survey in July, 2007, and the LCA will have representatives on the boat to ask questions about each infestation. Since this survey commences in 2 – 3 weeks, we feel this is the best method to review the infestation going forward.

I’m pleased to see progress by the White Amur, and believe that the White Amur will be the solution to our problem for 2008. For our beautiful Summer months of 2007, I can also see that herbicide applications are a MUST if we are to enjoy the use of our Lake. As always, we are open to your feedback on the weed infestations of Lake Conroe; and we are greatly appreciative of your donations to the 2007 LCA Fund Raising Campaign which have totaled approximately $100,000 during the past six (6) weeks. Thank you for your time in reviewing this Update. Enjoy your week.

Mike Bleier

President, Lake Conroe Association

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

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

2007 LAKE CONROE AQUATIC PLANT MANAGEMENT PLAN:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TREATMENT OF HYDRILLA:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TREATMENT OF GIANT SALVINIA:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LCA BANK BALANCE AND FUND RAISING EFFORTS:

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

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

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

Mike Bleier

President, Lake Conroe Association

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

What a relief!! Our rains have filled Lake Conroe and we can again enjoy the Lake at its best. We thought you’d like an update, so here goes…

LAKE LEVEL:

Lake Conroe was at 196.68 feet (above sea level) on October 12 and rose to its highest point of 201.27 feet on November 10. The San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) has since released water and we are at a level of 201.0 feet today. SJRA does not plan to allow Lake levels to exceed 201.0 feet (other than during storms) and would release water if further rains raised the level over 201.0 feet.

Factoid: The Lake rose from 196.68 feet to its highest point of 201.27 feet, or an increase of 4.59 feet. Assuming Lake Conroe to have approximately 21,000 surface acres, and assuming 0.25 inches of water over 21,000 acres equals 180 million gallons, then our 4.59 feet increase equaled over 39 billion gallons of water. That’s a lot of rain!!

Factoid: During Summer’s heat, Lake Conroe loses 180 million gallons per day to evaporation (or 0.25 inches per day over its 21,000 surface acres).

Factoid: SJRA is authorized to sell up to 90 million gallons per day. Of this, 30 million is allocated to municipal, industrial (currently to Entergy) and irrigation (various golf courses and home owners) contracts. 60 million gallons per day are set aside for the City of Houston (although they have not drawn water from Lake Conroe under this contract since 1989).

HYDRILLA:

With a net increase of 4.5 feet of water in the Lake, most of the hydrilla is under the surface. Sure looks nicer!! It’s not gone….it’s just hidden. Hydrilla will not grow as rapidly in the cooler months, and we will see less of it until spring. The exact growth rate of the hydrilla and the effectiveness of our White Amur will not be known until then. We can be assured that hydrilla will be back in our Lake in the spring (including the summer’s dry lakebed now covered with water). Until then, we would not expect to see any further additions of White Amur or herbicide treatments for hydrilla.

GIANT SALVINIA AND WATER HYACINTH:

The heavy rains have “flushed out” significant quantities of Giant Salvinia and Water Hyacinth from the northern portions of Lake Conroe. These areas have primarily low water levels and are not typically accessible by SJRA or the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) for herbicide applications. Unlike hydrilla which anchors itself to the lakebed through roots (tubers), Giant Salvinia and Water Hyacinth typically float. In a heavy rain, they just “float” South towards the dam. The current infestation of Giant Salvinia and Water Hyacinth across our Lake is serious, and serious action is being taken by both SJRA and TPWD. Both have committed financial and personnel resources to actively spray herbicides on these plants (to date in 2006, no money has been contributed by the LCA for herbicide applications). The most effective herbicide for Water Hyacinth is “Diquot”, but it does not work well on Giant Salvinia. Since “Glycophosphate” (with an “AquaKing” surfactant) works on both Water Hyacinth and Giant Salvinia, it is the herbicide of choice currently. SJRA and TPWD provide notices with recommended precautions in your area if they are spraying herbicides.

“Weevils” have been used on Lake Conroe as a biological supplement (to herbicides) to reduce Giant Salvinia. Due to quantity of Giant Salvinia “flushed out” into our Lake currently, herbicides are being applied to Giant Salvinia (which will also kill the “weevils”). Going forward, SJRA intends to only utilize “weevils” for Giant Salvinia infestations west of Little Lake Creek Bridge (going into Montgomery on FM 1097) and in the northern National Forest (both of which areas are uninhabited). “Weevils” are utilized to determine their effectiveness compared to herbicides (both to reduce our use of herbicides in our Lake and to reduce the high cost of herbicide applications).

WHITE AMUR:

With November 13th’s White Amur release, we should now have an estimated 27,048 White Amur in Lake Conroe (after factoring in mortality of fish during 2006). The maximum number of fish allowable under the 2006 Lake Conroe Hydrilla Management Plan was 30,000. Approximate White Amur release locations and quantities are summarized as follows: 10,000 in Little Lake Creek (Walden boat ramp), 8,000 in Lewis Creek (FM 830 boat ramp), 5,000 in Caney Creek (Scott’s Ridge boat ramp), 2,000 in Atkins Creek (Del Lago boat ramp), 1,500 from Cape Conroe and 500 near the 1097 bridge. The “LakeConroeAssociation.com” website has a more detailed map for your review.

The cost of our 27,048 White Amur was approximately $216,000. Approximate funding was provided as follows: $110,000 LCA, $81,000 SJRA and $25,000 Montgomery County Precinct 1.

TPWD WAIVES $2 FEE:

TPWD charges a $2 per White Amur processing fee throughout Texas. While final authorization has not been signed in Austin yet, TPWD acknowledges that the TPWD Commissioners have approved waiving this $2 fee beginning around January 1, 2007. At $2 per fish, over $54,000 was paid to TPWD in 2006 for Lake Conroe’s introduction of White Amur.

2007 AQUATIC MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR LAKE CONROE:

The current 2006 Hydrilla Management Plan for Lake Conroe is soon to expire and will be replaced by the 2007 Aquatic Management Plan for Lake Conroe. The 2007 Plan will extend beyond Hydrilla and address the control or eradication of Hydrilla, Giant Salvinia and Water Hyacinth on our Lake. The first draft of the 2007 Plan has been completed by TPWD and submitted to SJRA for review. With SJRA’s comments to be submitted shortly, a second draft will be produced and reviewed by the Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee is encouraged to make comments and recommendations, but the final decision of the contents of the 2007 Plan will fall upon TPWD and SJRA as “Cooperators” of the Plan.

Members of the Advisory Committee (other than TPWD and SJRA) are referred to as “Stakeholders”. The proposed “Stakeholders” will be a diverse group approximating representatives of four (4) resident/POA/HOA’s, four (4) local businesses, four (4) angler associations, one (1) independent consultant, and four (4) local individuals currently active in addressing Lake Conroe’s weed infestation. The LCA will hold one (1) of the “resident/POA/HOA” designations.

FUND RAISING:

Through your generous contributions, the LCA has raised in excess of $200,000 during 2006 (out of its $250,000 goal). These contributions have allowed the LCA to act as the primary funding source for White Amur in 2006 and established sufficient reserves to help fund the LCA’s portion of anticipated White Amur purchases in 2007. Of course, the LCA’s Fund Raising efforts cannot stop here. The LCA is already thinking towards anticipated 2008 White Amur purchases, ongoing White Amur introductions for maintenance levels, reserves for herbicide applications should Giant Salvinia, Water Hyacinth or some new invasive weed get out of control, reserves for surveying and testing, and reserves for the unforeseen incidents that occur on a Lake and always need money to remedy.

If you have not yet contributed to the LCA’s Fund Raising efforts, we would greatly appreciate your donation as each dollar gets us closer to our $250,000 goal. Donations can be mailed to Lake Conroe Association, P.O. Box 376, Willis, Texas 77378-9998. The LCA is a 501 ( c ) (3) non-profit corporation, and your donation should be deductible for income tax purposes. Approximately ninety-six percent (96%) of all monies donated to the LCA since 2000 have been utilized to purchase White Amur or herbicides (and all related fund raising costs such as printing and postage). The LCA is staffed by volunteers and pays no compensation.

Support from local businesses in the LCA’s Fund Raising Campaign has been disappointing. To better communicate our need to the many local businesses who may consider financially assisting the LCA and our community, the LCA is currently working more closely with the Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce and its members through participation at Chamber meetings, public speaking, trade show booths and whatever other source that allows us to make a “connection” between the LCA and local businesses.

TPWD will be waiving its $2 per White Amur fee. SJRA has agreed to split the cost of White Amur with the LCA, and has significantly increased its Aquatic Plant Management budget. Having met numerous times with Montgomery County Commissioners Court, the LCA is drafting its request for additional 2007 funding from Montgomery County. The LCA’s Fund Raising Committee is utilizing volunteers to search for State and Federal Grants which may be available to assist with Lake Conroe’s 2007 Aquatic Plant Management Program. Efforts across the State are being made to restore a Federal “CORE $” program discontinued in 2004 which, if funded, would again make monies available to TPWD and/or SJRA for our Aquatic Plant Management needs. Texas Black Bass Association is investigating funding sources to deal with the eradication or control of Giant Salvinia on Lake Conroe. The Seven Coves Bass Club (Lake Conroe) has applied for a State Grant to secure funds for lake health and maintenance. It’s beginning to feel like we’re all working together in Lake Conroe to solve this serious problem, and we sincerely thank everyone for their efforts.

LCA ANNUAL MEETING:

The LCA will hold its Annual Meeting for its Members and Board on Friday, January 19, 2007 at 10AM at the SJRA offices on Highway 105. The agenda will include updates on all Aquatic Plant Management issues, voting on proposed LCA By-Law revisions and electing the LCA Board of Directors for 2007. All LCA Members will be receiving in the mail a written invitation as well as a proxy ballot for the 2007 LCA Board of Directors should the Member be unable to attend the Meeting. The current LCA Board has thirteen (13) Directors. YOUR RETURN OF THE ANNUAL MEETING PROXY IS CRITICAL TO OBTAIN A QUORUM. Without a quorum, elections cannot be held and the meeting will have to be rescheduled followed by another mailing. Please return your Proxy today.

NEVER SHORT !!

These LCA Updates are never short due to the quantity of information and infrequency of distribution. We will endeavor to provide more timely communication to you via our website (“LakeConroeAssociation.com”). We thank you for reading to the end and supporting our collective cause to preserve our wonderful Lake Conroe.

Mike Bleier

President, Lake Conroe Association