Happy Holidays to our LCA Members, their families and friends. I’d say we had a great year on Lake Conroe based on the return of normal lake levels, lack of invasive vegetation, and strong economic growth. It feels like Santa has already given us gifts for the year. Please allow me to summarize some current LCA and lake information for you.
LCA ANNUAL BOARD OF DIRECTORS ELECTION: If you are a LCA Member, you will have received a 2015 Annual Meeting Proxy Card with this Update which allows you to vote for your LCA Board of Directors for 2015. We are fortunate to have all eight (8) current LCA Board Members agree to enter their names for re-election. Those current Directors are Gene Barrington, Mike Bleier, Tom Butz, Dawn Cleboski, Gene Colbert, Rich Cutler, Jim Pohoski and Ben Richardson. We encourage you to vote for the re-election of the current Board or “write-in” a candidate of your choice by returning the Proxy Card prior to January 16, 2015. I’d like to thank the current LCA Board for volunteering their time in 2014 on behalf of the LCA and our lake community.
LCA ANNUAL MEETING: The Annual Meeting of the Lake Conroe Association will be held on January 16, 2015 at the SJRA Meeting Room (3rd floor of the 3-story building) at the Lake Conroe dam site at 10 A.M. The Annual Meeting summarizes the Member vote for 2015 LCA Board of Directors and presents general information on Lake Conroe (similar to content below).
RAINFALL AND LAKE LEVELS: The current level of Lake Conroe is 200.86 (with an elevation of 201.0 being “normal pool”). The year was a bit unusual in that we had numerous slow, steady rains as compared to significant individual rainfall events (which produce a great deal of run-off and fill the lake quickly). While the rainfall totals recorded at the SJRA dam site totaled 43.69” (which is less than the average annual rainfall on Lake Conroe of 48”), lake levels remained relatively high throughout the year. Our lake level exceeded an elevation of 199.0’ for 348 days out of the 349 days year to date. I think most would state they were happy with lake levels in 2014 and hope for more of the same in 2015.
WATER RELEASES AT THE SJRA DAM: We finally reached a “full pool” elevation of 201.0 on Lake Conroe on May 13, 2014 after enduring 4 years of below that level (April 25, 2010 being the last time a level of 201.0 was recorded). While small quantities of water in excess of the 201.0 elevation were released through the dam starting May 13, the total quantity of water released in 2014 totaled 30,292 acre feet, or approximately 15” of water across the lake (and no water has been released since July 23, 2014). The average annual release of water through the dam approximates 7 feet per year.
IMPROVEMENTS AT SJRA “SERVICE OUTLET”: Water is released from Lake Conroe by SJRA through either its “service outlet” (intended for small amounts of water – typically 25 to 500 cubic feet per second) or through any combination of its three “gates” (usually releasing water in increments of 500 cubic feet per second and typically associated with a large storm event). The “service outlet” plays an important role in SJRA’s efforts to “conserve” lake level. When the lake goes over 201.0’ during a storm, SJRA staff begin releasing the excess water. Their goal isn’t to try to keep the lake from going over 201.0’, but they do have to stay within certain safe operating parameters. In fact, they are typically able to hold or “slowly bleed off” a few inches of water to “conserve” what they can. Because the “service outlets” can be fined-tuned to release smaller amounts of water (as compared to the main “gates”), SJRA staff use these gates to slowly release water when the lake is only a few inches over its full level. SJRA’s Board (of which I am a Member) approved a rehabilitation project of that “service outlet” which will maximize the long-term functionality and effectiveness of this “service outlet”. The project is currently underway and will be completed in phases over the next two (2) fiscal years.
LAKE CONROE ADVISORY BOARD: Since the hydrilla infestation of 2006, an Advisory Board was created to discuss lake conditions, how to best control invasive vegetation, and how to protect important native vegetation on Lake Conroe. Participants in this Advisory Board include Texas Parks & Wildlife, San Jacinto River Authority, angling organizations and the LCA. A meeting was held on December 15, 2014 where various updates were provided and suggestions for ongoing maintenance were presented. Key points of interest include:
• An estimated 7,900 hydrilla-eating White Amur Grass Carp are still alive in Lake Conroe
• Hydrilla is estimated to occupy only 0.01 acres currently (basically, none)
• Water Hyacinth is estimated to occupy 162 acres currently
• Giant Salvinia is estimated to occupy 48 acres currently
• Native Plants have rebounded to an estimated 1,171 acres currently
• Based on the estimated 7,900 Grass Carp still alive and the lack of Hydrilla on Lake Conroe, no stockings of White Amur Grass Carp are planned for 2015
The LCA is pleased to participate in this committee and do its part in providing feedback towards a healthy Lake Conroe.
ZEBRA MUSSELS: Please be reminded to inspect your watercraft for Zebra Mussels should you transport your vessel from one body of water to another. Zebra Mussels have been confirmed in seven (7) Texas water bodies and we strongly desire to keep these intruders out of Lake Conroe. Texas Parks & Wildlife has implemented significant fines for individuals not cleaning ballasts, live wells, bait buckets, bilges, wake board bladders, or any other water-holding compartment when removing a vessel from or launching a vessel into a Texas water body. For more information regarding Zebra Mussels, please visit our LCA website at www.lakeconroeassociation.com. Remember the Texas Parks & Wildlife campaign slogan, “Clean, Drain & Dry Your Boat”!
SJRA WATER PROTECTION PLAN: Lake Conroe has been blessed with relatively clean water chemistry compared to most Texas lakes and we desire to keep it that way. With the future use of Lake Conroe water as a drinking supply, the importance of maintaining clean water is even more important. With this in mind, SJRA created a Water Protection Advisory Board comprised of 17 diverse individuals from many walks of life including a marina owner, real estate consultant, dredging and bulkhead company, municipal water provider, Montgomery County constable, angler, forester and numerous appropriate businesses. The LCA has two (2) representatives on this committee. Counties represented included Montgomery, Walker and Liberty counties. Having held 8 informative meetings requiring feedback from all participants, SJRA is completing its first, formal Water Protection Plan for Lake Conroe. Topics addressed include storm sewer run-off, animal waste and fertilizer run-off, poorly maintained residential septic systems, larger municipal or sub-division on-site septic systems, proper disposal of chemicals and paints, and other related subjects. SJRA will be releasing its first draft of this policy in early 2015 and, upon feedback from the Advisory Board and the SJRA Board, a formal policy will be implemented for the betterment of our local water supply.
SJRA WATER TREATMENT FACILITY AND DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM: With the $500 million Water Treatment Facility and Distribution System (Pipelines) ahead of its scheduled completion date, SJRA anticipates testing of the project to commence June 1, 2015 and actual delivery of drinking water effective September 1, 2015. Through October 31, 2014, the Water Treatment Facility is 80% complete (based on paid invoices of $151, 707,353) and the Pipeline is 83% complete (based on paid invoices of $123,839,431). That pipeline includes approximately 52 miles of various sized concrete coated steel pipe, PVC pipe, and bar wrapped concrete mortar pipe. One of the common questions I hear from our LCA Members is “How much will the lake go down when SJRA has to fill all of those pipelines?” It is assumed that we’re talking about a significant amount of water just to get the pipelines filled and pressurized. In fact, the estimated quantity of water needed to fill the pipelines and two (2) five million gallon above-ground storage tanks is 16 million gallons, or approximately 1/32” of water from the surface of Lake Conroe. An additional use of water will be the initial “flushing” stage of the project required by TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality). TCEQ maintains guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting all the storage tanks and pipelines before they are placed in service. The “flushing” will last for several days to a few weeks depending on how the process goes, and initial estimates are that “flushing” could use approximately 300 million gallons in a best case scenario (or the equivalent of a ½” of water from the surface of Lake Conroe) to as much as 900 million gallons in a worst case scenario (or the equivalent of 1 ½” of water from the surface of Lake Conroe).
SJRA WATER DELIVERED AND PUMPED: SJRA is in the business of providing water for residential and commercial use in primarily Montgomery and Harris Counties. Raw water is delivered to industrial customers mostly from Lake Houston (with a small amount of industrial use out of Lake Conroe). SJRA also has a few municipal customers receiving raw water from Lake Houston. Groundwater is captured via water wells and delivered primarily for the ultimate use of residential customers. The total amount of water (both groundwater and surface water in both Harris and Montgomery Counties) “delivered” and/or “pumped” by SJRA during the fiscal year ending August 31, 2014 exceeded 30 billion gallons. While the vast majority of that water does not come from Lake Conroe, I found it interesting that 30 billion gallons approximates 22% of water held in Lake Conroe at a “full pool” elevation of 201.0’.
IS RESIDENTIAL WATER USE DECREASING? During the fiscal year ended August 31, 2014, the amount of water sold by SJRA and utilized by residential customers appears to have decreased. In fact, residential water use in The Woodlands was ten percent (10%) less than what was budgeted for that period. Much work is being done by SJRA to clarify the “Why?” Given we had relatively steady (while moderate) rainfall and did not endure prolonged periods of drought during that period, was there less use by residential irrigation systems? Did the use of “rain sensors” on residential irrigation systems “turn off” the systems more frequently based on this more steady rainfall? Did people truly choose to “conserve” water and modify their previous water usage based on requests from Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District and San Jacinto River Authority for conservation? Did people around Lake Conroe choose to conserve, in part, because they felt it may help to protect lake levels? The results of further researching this phenomenon will be important in planning water resources for our future.
FUN FACTS AND FIGURES: SJRA’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the Fiscal Year Ended August 31, 2014 included some interesting “factoids”. Based on the most recent Census Data available, please find the following information specifically for Montgomery County:
• Population = 499,137
• Attained High School = 86%
• Attained College = 30%
• Median Age = 36 years old
• Median Household Income = $66,422
• Unemployment Rate = 6.8%
The report provides similar data for the following Counties/Cities as well: Barrett, Baytown, Crosby, Grimes County, Highlands, Liberty County, San Jacinto County, Waller County, and Walker County. It would not be surprising to note that Montgomery County recorded the highest Population, Attainment of High School and College, and Median Household Income compared the other Counties/Cities. For those of us in Montgomery County, we have been fortunate to set roots here and, I believe, the future looks promising.
LCA MEMBERSHIP: Until the LCA needs additional funds for a “project”, we will not invoice our Members for dues. Of course, donations are accepted and appreciated at any time. Individual memberships in the LCA are typically billed at $100 per year. The LCA is a 501 (c) 3 Not-For-Profit Organization and donations are generally tax deductible. Our mailing address is Lake Conroe Association, P.O. Box 376, Willis, Texas 77378. For more information about the LCA, visit our website at www.lakeconroeassociation.com.
Well, another year has passed and I feel the Lake Conroe area has fared well. On behalf of the Board of the Lake Conroe Association, we wish you a happy and healthy holiday season and a prosperous year to come. We will keep you updated as new information becomes available. Should you have any questions, please contact me via the LCA website (www.lakeconroeassociation.com) or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your support of the Lake Conroe Association.
Mike Bleier, President
Lake Conroe Association