A fourth invasive plant known as Crested Floating Heart has been identified in Lake Conroe

Crested Floating Heart

Reservoir owners and operators in Southeast Texas are all familiar with the concept of non-native, or invasive, aquatic vegetation growing in their waters and the various management techniques available to help control their existence. Through close partnerships with local, state, and federal organizations, especially the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), the Lake Conroe Division of the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) manages invasive aquatic plants, zebra mussels, and other invasive species on the Lake Conroe Reservoir. In addition, the Division has developed a program to establish and maintain native vegetation across the reservoir and sustain a suitable fisheries habitat.

Lake Conroe invasive species efforts have historically targeted three primary species of plants: Hydrilla, Water Hyacinth, and Giant Salvinia. Hydrilla is a submerged and rooted plant that generally grows in shallow water. Water Hyacinth is a floating invasive species with large purple flowers that bloom in the summer. Giant Salvinia also floats freely on the surface of the water and resembles a fern. Each one of these plants presents its own unique challenges, but all three can cause serious environmental, as well as economic havoc on an aquatic environment. Countless hours have been spent to keep these three plants under control on Lake Conroe.

Water Hyacinth

Water Hyacinth is a floating invasive species with large purple flowers that bloom in the summer.

(Source: Phil Petunyia)

Hydrilla

Hydrilla is a submerged and rooted plant that generally grows in shallow water.

(Photo Source: Bugwood.org)

Giant Salvinia

Giant Salvinia also floats freely on the surface of the water and resembles a fern.

(Photo Source: texasfarmbureau.org)

There are numerous ways in which invasive plants can get introduced into a body of water. The most common way for this to happen is when a boat that was not properly cleaned, drained, and dried travels from an infested lake to a non-infested lake. Just like the zebra mussel, plants are simply transported via boat and trailer from one lake to the other.

Another common way in which non-native plants are introduced to a lake is through the aquarium or water garden industries. Unfortunately, many invasive species are actually quite beautiful to look at and, though illegal to possess, are relatively easy to purchase. Finding plants to stock these outdoor features is often as easy as a few clicks on the internet. There are many ways that garden plants can end up in a local body of water. Often it’s through disposal, but they can also be carried by animals such as birds and reptiles or rising waters during a storm.

Crested Floating Heart

Recently, a fourth invasive plant known as Crested Floating Heart has been identified in Lake Conroe. This is a rooted plant with heart-shaped leaves that float on the water’s surface. The plant was first identified on Lake Conroe in the headwaters of Little Lake Creek.

Little Lake Creek

In the aquatic plant management world, the ability to positively identify plants is the single most important skill a manager can have.  One must be able to distinguish between native plants and non-native plants at any time of season.

Crested Floating Heart

Crested Floating Heart is a rooted plant with heart-shaped leaves that float on the water’s surface.

One of the key indicators that allows aquatic plant managers to positively identify Crested Floating Heart is the distinct ridge that runs down the middle of its leaf petals.

(Photo Source: www.texasinvasives.org)

Banana Lily

Banana Lily, a plant native to the Southeast United States, can easily be mistaken for Crested Floating Heart.

Banana lily is a perennial plant with leaves that arise from “banana-shaped” rhizomes on the long slender petioles

(Photo Source: plantsrescue.com)

In the case of Crested Floating Heart, this can prove to be a challenge as many native plants resemble Crested Floating Heart.  In particular, Banana Lily, a plant native to the Southeast United States, can easily be mistaken for Crested Floating Heart.  One of the key indicators that allows aquatic plant managers to positively identify Crested Floating Heart is the distinct ridge that runs down the middle of its leaf petals.

Fortunately, this plant has been positively identified and treatment has already started.  The plant was identified on October 30, 2018, and technicians from the TPWD were on Lake Conroe on November 2, 2018, making the initial treatment applications.  The treatment of choice is a relatively new herbicide that is safe for the environment and poses no threat to public safety, yet is highly effective on this invasive plant.  Only specially-trained applicators are permited to purchase and apply this new product.  Technicians with SJRA, in addition to local area contractors, are scheduling to be trained on this product, so that they too can join in the fight.

Erradicating an invasive plant like Crested Floating Heart is usually not possible on a body of water as large as Lake Conroe, but that is the goal of our efforts.  What is more likely is that this plant will become a regular part of the on-going aquatic plant maintenance program for Lake Conroe.

Finally, a special warning to boaters.  One of several ways that this plant can reproduce is through fragmentation.  This means that if a piece of the plant is broken off by a boat propeller or some other means, it can float away and reestablish as an entirely new plant.  For this reason, boaters and recreational enthusists on Lake Conroe should take special precaution not to damage plants if they see them.   To learn more about this plant please visit:

https://www.texasinvasives.org/plant_database/detail.php?symbol=NYCR

LCCN petitioning LSGCD’s impending 2016 regulations

Posted: Sunday, May 3, 2015 9:44 pm

The Lake Conroe Communities Network is in the process of garnering signatures for a petition urging the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District to suspend impending groundwater regulations that would go into effect in 2016.

The petition claims the regulations will cause a water deficit of 100,000 acre-feet per year by 2035 when factoring in Montgomery County population growth projections. They want the district to take time to study the viability and sustainability of using alternative methods of accessing water, including taking it from Lake Conroe.

The petition also calls upon the district to initiate other water conservation tactics instead of only cutting back on aquifer use. LCCN also wants LSGCD to distinguish the four aquifers under Montgomery County as such and not as one Gulf Coast Aquifer as LCCN claims.

“This is unprecedented as far as we’re concerned, to influence Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District through a petition,” LCCN President Scott Sustman said.

The network held a series of forums in Lake Conroe communities on April 27 and 28 introducing the petition and gaining support and signees.

“The petition deals with the economic viability, practicality and sustainability of alternative water sources,” Sustman said. “That’s actually right in the charter Lone Star Water Conservation District has, and before they constrict water usage from a particular source, they need to make sure that the alternative source is economically viable, ethical and sustainable.

“We feel there’s some question about that when they’re pointing to Lake Conroe potentially as an alternative water source because there’s a finite amount of water in Lake Conroe, and quite frankly, there’s more water in the aquifers than there is in Lake Conroe.”

Kathy Turner Jones, general manager for LSGCD, said the district has no intentions of delaying the implementation of the regulations on Jan. 1, 2016.

Jones said the district is performing studies to determine the impact of the 2016 regulations as well as the additional availability of groundwater.

“The current plan has adequate options for anticipated growth through 2070 and it will be under revision starting next year to incorporate revised population estimates,” Jones said. “Montgomery County will need to be able to draw upon a variety of diversified sources of raw water for future public needs and economic development. If additional groundwater is determined to be available it will be incorporated in the next planning round as a viable future supply.”

Jones also said the study the district is undertaking distinguishes the aquifers as separate strata and not as one “Gulf Coast Aquifer,” as does the Houston Area Groundwater Model.

LSGCD partakes in groundwater conservation education, Jones said, and it has fulfilled its statutorily mandated duties in doing so.

“The district has been active in promoting conservation for all entities within the county,” Jones said. “The district’s offices has (sic) many examples of conservation measures for outdoor water and rainwater harvesting as well as native plant landscaping for water savings. It has also assisted in the establishment of the Gulf Coast/Montgomery County Water Efficiency Network consisting of water professionals from around the region that meet regularly to share industry information and discuss conservation issues.”

The petition currently has over 400 signatures

For more information about the petition, visit www.lakeconroecn.com.

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LCCN to host ‘Save the Lake’ town halls

Posted: Sunday, April 26, 2015 9:39 pm

The Lake Conroe Communities Network is hoping for a good turnout at their “Save the Lake” town halls on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.

The informational meetings will be about the LCCN’s argument against increasing Lake Conroe’s contribution to the Montgomery County water supply, as the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District intends to do starting Jan.1.

“LCCN has done a lot of research relative to the things that LSGCD wants to have transpire Jan. 1 regarding reduction of pumpage,” LCCN President Scott Sustman said. “We’re going to present information and analysis by some hydrologists that have not been involved in the process questioning some of Lone Star’s beliefs that the (main Montgomery County) aquifer is in distress.”

Sustman said they aren’t butting heads with the LSGCD, but that more information needs to be gathered before they make any decision regarding Lake Conroe.

“We need to take a little more time, do more research and gathering more facts,” he said. “Lone Star is going that to an extent with a project that’s going on but that won’t be done for a few years.”

The town hall meetings will be one hour including a 40-minute presentation by one of two experts that agree with LCCN’s position in the issue.

Bob Harden is a professional hydrologist and the president of R.W. Harden Associates. He will speak at the April Sound Country Club on Tuesday, and again on Wednesday at Walden Yacht Club.

Michael Thornhill is the president of Thornhill Group, as well as a professional geologist and hydrogeologist. He will speak at the Northshore Church in Bentwater on Tuesday and the Seven Coves Clubhouse on Wednesday.

After the presentation, attendees will also have a chance to sign a petition asking LSGCD to postpone any regulation changes.

Both presentations begin at 7 p.m. with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. For more information go to www.LakeConroeCN.com/ #Save_The_Lake.

SJRA plans study on Catahoula well site

Posted: Sunday, February 2, 2014 10:58 pm

LAKE CONROE – The San Jacinto River Authority will conduct a feasibility study to determine where it will place its Catahoula water well.

While the SJRA has shown interest in positioning the well near Entergy’s Lewis Creek power station, the utility company might connect two to three municipal utility districts in the area, SJRA General Manager Jace Houston said at Thursday’s SJRA board meeting.

The Lake Creek Reservoir is located on Lake Conroe just north of FM 1097.

“We’ll look at the cost of connecting two or three MUDs and see how financially feasible they can be,” Houston said.

Catahoula wells being drilled are classified as providing an alternative water source from the Evangeline and Jasper aquifers for the water suppliers around Southeast Texas.

The study is expected is take six to nine months, Houston said.

Drought contingency plan:

The SJRA has until May 1 to submit its revised Drought Contingency and Water Conservation plans to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The SJRA board approved a four-step contingency plan.

Stage 1: A 5 percent reduction in water use is activated when the lake level drops to 199 feet at sea level.

Stage 2: Also known as moderate drought conditions, it brings a 5 percent reduction in the winter months of October through March. There is at least a 10 percent reduction in the summer when the Lake Conroe level drops below 197 msl.

Stage 3: A 10 percent reduction in winter and 20 percent reduction in summer months. Mean sea level falls below 194 msl.

Stage 4: A reduction of 15 percent in the winter and 30 percent during the summer months are required when water depth falls below 190.

Water conservation includes the plans already in use by the residents around Lake Conroe.

TAG: LSGCD

County outgrowing water supply

Posted: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 10:33 pm

The population of Montgomery County is growing too fast for the groundwater to sustain it, and human consumption isn’t even the biggest drain on the county’s water resources; it’s lawn irrigation.

In The Woodlands, as much as 80 percent of the township’s water is used on lawns during the summer, according to data from The Woodlands Joint Powers Agency. WJPA restricts residents from watering their lawns more than twice a week. Beginning in June, residents may find an extra surcharge on their water bills if they are caught watering off-schedule.

Jim Stinson, WJPA’s general manager, said these measures along with conservation education programs are essential for responsible usage, but the rates continue to rise.

“Historically, we’ve had plenty of water resources to cover Montgomery County,” said Mark Smith, Groundwater Reduction Plan administrator for the San Jacinto River Authority. “But urbanization puts those resources under pressure.”

The county’s population doubled more than four times from 1960 to 2010, according to Census data; and as the area north of Houston continues to grow, Montgomery County will have to look elsewhere for water.

Smith said Lake Conroe holds the key, at least for now. That’s where SJRA is building two 5 million-gallon tanks and prepping to lay 57 miles of pipeline that will carry water from the lake to homes and businesses in certain areas of the county, including The Woodlands, Oak Ridge North and Conroe.

“Without that, we would have to stop growing for lack of water,” he said.

Montgomery County’s portion of the Chicot, Evangeline and Jasper aquifers can recharge by 64,000 acre feet, or 20.8 billion gallons, a year. But Montgomery County residents used more than 28 billion gallons in 2009. The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District(LSGCD), the county agency that regulates these underground bodies of water, estimates the demand will grow to more than 50 billion gallons by 2040.

The lake can sustainably provide 32.5 billion gallons of water a year. The SJRA may have to dig deeper or buy water from other counties in the future, but eventually demand will likely outpace the supply. Conservation could significantly reduce the demand for water.

“The cheapest alternative supply is to simply use less,” Smith said.

Keep off the grass

Landscaping is a point of pride in The Woodlands. Residents take care to ensure their lawns are vibrant and well-watered. Stinson said Woodlands residents triple the amount of water they use on their lawns in the summer, and about half of that is wasted.

He said grass needs only about an inch of water each week. Too much water can keep grassroots from growing deep enough, causing them to become “addicted” to the excess. He said residents routinely over-water their lawns.

Not even the drought in 2011 slowed them down.

John Nielsen-Gammon, the state climatologist, said Texas’ 2011 drought was the worst of any single year on record.

Most of the state suffered its driest year. Temperatures topped 100 degrees on 52 separate days for most of Montgomery County. Nearly 30,000 trees died in The Woodlands. WJPA issued water restrictions as part of a drought contingency plan, and its residents used 1.8 billion gallons of water more than the previous year.

“Those numbers would have been higher had restrictions not been in place,” Stinson said.

Nielsen-Gammon said conditions won’t be as severe as they were in 2011, but Texas still is experiencing a drought. Higher-than-average temperatures and less-than-average rainfall will worsen the drought statewide.

“Things are probably going to dry faster than they normally do,” he said.

And despite water conservation programs – like Woodlands Irrigation System Evaluation (WISE Guys) implemented in early 2010, which recommends ways homeowners can reduce their water use – Stinson said residents continue “to waste this vital resource.”

A year after initiating the WISE Guys program, WJPA saw a modest decline in the township’s usage – from 67,546 gallons per person in 2009 to 67,092 in 2010. Then the drought hit in the beginning of 2011 and erased those gains in conservation.

At a time when water was most scarce, The Woodlands’ then-95,715 residents used more than 8 billion gallons of water for an average of 83,988 gallons each. In 2012, at 68,236 gallons per person, usage rates fell but were still well above the 2010 low.

And some of the township’s municipal utility districts use more than others.

The most water-frugal MUD is No. 7, which covers parts of Panther Creek and the northernmost section of Cochran’s Crossing, using 42,411 gallons per person in 2012.

By comparison, MUD No. 2, the smallest, covering 762 people in southwestern Grogan’s Mill, used nearly double the township’s average at 128,537 gallons per person in 2012.

“To have an effective conservation program is a process that takes several years,” Stinson said.

In the meantime, the county’s conservation and utility agencies continue to educate the public about watering lawns and to devise creative solutions to meet water needs. For example, The Woodlands’ golf courses water their fairways with wastewater from SJRA’s water plants.

But in the long run, no single solution will be adequate. If the region continues to grow, its citizens will be required to develop more resources and use them responsibly.