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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Bleier

President, Lake Conroe Association

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JANUARY WHITE AMUR RELEASE:

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

WHITE AMUR CALCULATION:

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

TPWD HYDRILLA SURVEY:

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

· 1999….20 acres

· 2001…..80 acres

· 2004…..150 acres

· March, 2006…..470 acres

· July, 2006…..740 acres

· September, 2006…..1,200 acres

· March, 2007…..1,900 acres

· May, 2007…..1,380 acres

· July, 2007…..1,780 acres

· December, 2007…..1,940 acres

· January, 2008…..2,050 acres

NATIVE VEGETATION BEING PLANTED IN LAKE CONROE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SUMMARY OF LCA ANNUAL MEETING

Held January 18, 2008

LCA MEMBER VOTE ON 2008 LCA BOARD OF DIRECTORS:

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

LCA OFFICER ELECTIONS:

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

AUDIT OF LCA:

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

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

HERBICIDE TREATMENTS:

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

FUND RAISING FROM OTHER-THAN-YOU:

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

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

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

No Federal funding has been obtained.

OTHER DISCUSSION TOPICS:

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

· Native grasses being planted in Lake Conroe

· White Amur stockings and mortality

· Angler organizations and their position in this issue

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

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

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association

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