Good day to all. To use a common phrase, “I have good news and I have bad news. Which do you want first?”
The September, 2006 hydrilla survey estimated 1,200 infested acres. With the rains and rise in Lake levels, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) estimated an additional 700 acres of previously dry lakebed would become infested. I, like most of you, had hoped that the combination of winter temperatures causing hydrilla die back plus our 27,000 White Amur eating away would dramatically decrease the amount of hydrilla in Lake Conroe. TPWD completed its March, 2007 hydrilla survey and estimated a total of 1,900 infested acres…..or no reduction in the number of surface acres at all. With this latest information, Lake users should be prepared for another summer of significant hydrilla infestation.
Acknowledging the new growth hydrilla in the previously dry lakebed, TPWD authorized the introduction of 10,000 new White Amur in March, 2007. Upon completing its hydrilla survey in later March and identifying insignificant hydrilla reduction during the past six months, TPWD authorized the release of an additional 23,424 White Amur which will be added in early to mid-May. This will raise the total of White Amur stocked to around 60,000, and place the approximate number of fish/acre at 30 (an increase from 23 fish/acre in October, 2006). We certainly hope they have BIG appetites over this summer!!
The next TPWD hydrilla survey will be in May, 2007, and I’d be prepared for a further increase in the number of infested acres and the reappearance of “topped-out” hydrilla where we saw it last summer. Further White Amur introductions are possible at that time, yet the concern remains over placing too many White Amur into the Lake which may revert to eating native vegetation once (or if) all of the hydrilla is gone.
The use of herbicides to reduce the quantity of hydrilla is once again being reviewed. Herbicides like Aquathol K do not kill hydrilla but rather “burn it back” for a period of two to four weeks. The benefits of the use of Aquathol K would include the immediate removal of “topped out” hydrilla to provide access to and from the shoreline. A second benefit would be that the less hydrilla there is in the Lake, the less hydrilla the White Amur need to eat and, theoretically, the faster the White Amur can get ahead of the hydrilla growth. Certainly, one negative of the use of herbicides would be the cost of those herbicides (and some would argue that the monies would be better spent on more White Amur that will live for five to seven years). The LCA has not funded herbicide applications for hydrilla in 2006 or 2007, but we will face this issue this Summer. No decision has yet been made by the LCA on this funding issue.
Sonar is a herbicide which does kill hydrilla, but its use is restricted to sheltered “cove-type” areas and its effectiveness is reduced or eliminated should heavy winds or rains wash the herbicide into the main body of the Lake. In the event that Sonar is used, a by-product of its use is that it also kills Giant Salvinia…..and Giant Salvinia likes to collect in these same “cove-type” areas. The use of Sonar is being considered in very limited applications.
Under its arrangement with the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA), the LCA is to cost-share on a 50/50 basis with SJRA on all approved White Amur purchases and herbicide applications for Giant Salvinia.
Giant Salvinia doubles in size every four days under ideal growing conditions. TPWD estimated a total of 221 acres of Giant Salvinia on Lake Conroe in September, 2006. With the heavy rains which raised the Lake level back to 201 feet, Giant Salvinia was “washed out” of the northern, uninhabited, low-lying areas in which it thrives and into the main body of the Lake. Giant Salvinia can now be found most everywhere on our Lake’s shoreline in small quantities.
To combat the potential explosion of Giant Salvinia, herbicide applications which kill the plant were initiated three weeks ago. The estimated cost to cover the infestation in this first application was $80,000, and the LCA and SJRA will share in this cost under our 50/50 cost-share arrangement. It’s probable a second application will be needed in two months.
WHITE AMUR SIGNAGE:
White Amur are protected by law from removal from any Texas lake. Signs are currently being produced and will be posted at all marinas and boat launches to educate and remind anglers of the need to “catch and release” should a White Amur be inadvertently caught. These signs should also assist bow hunters in identifying White Amur before they shoot their arrows. And, finally, Game Wardens will not have to listen to the excuse “I didn’t know that was the law.”
WHITE AMUR STOCKINGS:
No, not socks for White Amur !! When White Amur have been introduced into the Lake (stockings), questions have arisen by some LCA Members whether the fish were healthy, of the proper size and handled properly. Historically, stockings have been coordinated between the supplier, SJRA and TPWD. During the May, 2007 stocking, a paid, trained consultant will observe the stocking and also train all LCA Board Members in what to look for in White Amur stockings. All future White Amur stockings in Lake Conroe will be observed by either the paid consultant or a trained LCA Board Member…..in addition to SJRA and TPWD representatives.
WHERE DID THE MONEY GO?
Thanks to the generosity of our LCA Members, the LCA raised $240,000 in the last year for Aquatic Plant Management on Lake Conroe. To pay for the 27,000 White Amur introduced into the Lake in 2006, the LCA contributed $90,000 (I’m using big, round numbers for this Update). Our 10,000 White Amur introduced in March, 2007 cost $34,000. The LCA has agreed to pay $40,000 (its 50% share) for the Giant Salvinia herbicide applications in April and May, 2007. And this newest batch of 23,000 White Amur to be introduced in May, 2007 will cost the LCA $76,000. There goes the $240,000. The LCA’s financial records are audited every two years, so please rest assured that each penny is being properly accounted for on your behalf.
FUTURE FUND RAISING:
Based on the above, the LCA’s bank account balance will be less than $2,000 once we receive all of the invoices for payment. What happens when we need more White Amur or herbicide applications?
You guessed it. It’s Fund Raising time again. The LCA has initiated its next Fund Raising effort, and Fund Raising requests will be mailed in May, 2007. A personal contribution of $100 makes an individual a LCA Member for one year. A $250 business contribution makes a business a LCA Member for one year.
We had very limited success in securing funds from local businesses during the past year (and “Thank You” to each business that did contribute). In an effort to acknowledge businesses supporting Lake Conroe and the effort to control its weed infestation, the LCA will implement a couple of new concepts for 2007. All businesses contributing $250 or more will be publicly acknowledged through advertisements placed by the LCA in The Courier. Further, we will create a web page on the LCA website (LakeConroeAssociation.com) which summarizes all business contributors by business category. We hope that you will review the ads and website, and use this information to support the businesses which are also supporting you. Businesses will also be provided a framed certificate which they can display at their business which lets you know they are a financial supporter of Lake Conroe and the LCA.
FUNDS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS:
Senator Nichols presented Senate Bill 825 to the Senate Sub-Committee three weeks ago. Representative Brandon Creighton presented House Bill 825 to the House Sub-Committee (the House version of the Senate bill) two weeks ago. LCA representatives spoke in Austin to both of these Sub-Committees, and we are pleased to say that both Bills were forwarded by the Sub-Committees to their respective Senate and House floors for voting in future months. We very much appreciate the efforts of Senator Nichols and Representative Creighton for their efforts in initiating these Bills, and of a local resident for his efforts at these Sub-Committee hearings. While these Bills do not direct new monies for Aquatic Plant Management (APM) in the State of Texas, they authorize TPWD to utilize certain funds for APM which previously could not be used by TPWD for this purpose. Further, these Bills raise awareness of the need for APM in Austin, and provide a stepping-stone for future funding requests from the State.
FUNDS FROM COUNTY, CITY AND OTHER SOURCES:
The LCA will be hosting a Forum of State, County and City officials in four weeks to discuss the need for funding from sources other than local residents and businesses. This Forum has been favorably accepted by the invitees, and we hope that this event will initiate true dialogue among these various entities on the need for their immediate financial support. Included in the invitee list are Senator Nichols, Representative Creighton, County Judge Sadler, Precinct 1 Commissioner Meador, Precinct 2 Commissioner Doyal, Precinct 3 Commissioner Chance, Precinct 4 Commissioner Rinehart, Conroe Mayor Metcalf, Montgomery Mayor Moore, Willis Mayor Reed, Conroe Chamber of Commerce Director Darsey, US Forest Service representative, TPWD, SJRA, LCA Board Members and Howard Roden from The Courier. This event will not be open to the public as was our August, 2006 Public Meeting, but the LCA and Courier will be reporting on the outcome the following day. We share this information to demonstrate to you that we are “shaking every tree and leaving no stone unturned” in our efforts to secure adequate funding for the today and tomorrow of Lake Conroe; and that we agree that local residents should not be as responsible for the financial maintenance of Lake Conroe as they have been in the past. As Public Entities often cannot produce immediate funds and must obtain approval annually in the budget process, please do not anticipate monies to be received in time to solve our short-term, summer financial needs….and so, the LCA residential and business Fund Raising efforts will move forward and require your full support.
THANK YOU FOR LISTENING, AND I WILL REPORT TO YOU SOON WITH NEW INFORMATION.
President, Lake Conroe Association