LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE as of April 18, 2014
The Lake Conroe Association (LCA) wishes you a Happy Spring and a wonderful year on Lake Conroe to come. We have many happenings in and around our community, and we wanted to take an opportunity to update you on topics of interest. In no particular order of importance:
U.S. MAIL OR E-MAIL?: The LCA chose to deliver this Update by both U.S. Mail and e-mail. Our normal, less expensive method of delivery is e-mail. In the event that you received this Update by U.S. Mail but not by e-mail, we must not have your current e-mail address. In the event that you would like to be added to our e-mail list, please 1) go to our web site (www.lakeconroeassociation.com), 2) select “Contact Us”, and 3) provide us with your name and e-mail address. You will be added for all future e-mail correspondence.
LOCAL ELECTIONS: In a County of approximately 500,000 residents and 267,969 registered voters, only 43,510 votes were cast in our March, 2014 Montgomery County local elections. This equates to 16% of our registered voters controlling who shall best govern Montgomery County. Run-off elections will be held on May 27, 2014. As voters have fewer decisions to make on run-off election day (some races were decided by majority in March and propositions were voted on in March), voter turn-out for the May elections is typically lower. Do you want 8%, 12% or even 16% of registered voters to decide the elected officials who will represent you for the next 4 years? PLEASE GET OUT AND VOTE ON MAY 27, 2014!
WEATHER: Have you ever seen so many ups and downs in a weather pattern before? Our Winter season (defined as December to February) produced the third coldest Winter in Montgomery County in recorded history. I thought I was finally warming up this past week, but then a cold front approaches and gives us 35 degrees again. My plants were not happy!
RAINFALL: With an average rainfall of 48 inches per year in Montgomery County, we saw rainfall totals of 39.89 inches in 2013. Through April 14, we have averaged 9.89 inches of rainfall over the past six (6) years and have seen 7.86 inches at the Lake Conroe dam site so far in 2014. We will soon be entering our wettest months of the year (May and June). Forecasters say an El Nino weather pattern in the Pacific (one that brings more moisture) could help out Texas by Fall and into Winter.
LAKE LEVELS: Lake Conroe is currently at a level of 200.67 feet (with 201.0 being considered “full pool”). It’s just wonderful to look out and see an almost-full Lake Conroe, and anglers and recreational boaters seem to be out in numbers taking advantage of the conditions.
SJRA LAKE LEVEL REPORTING: Some erroneous lake level data has been reported by avid followers of SJRA’s website recording lake levels. The lake levels reported can actually come from 1 of 4 different sources; namely, one gauge operated by the US Geologic Service, two gauges operated by SJRA, and a manual reading by SJRA. Gauges, being an instrument, can become faulty periodically and require re-calibration or, in the worst case, replacement (as was done with the USGS gauge recently). Strong winds out of the North can push water higher on the SJRA dam and create an artificial rise in lake level of over an inch or two. The lake level data on the SJRA web site is recorded electronically by one of these three gauges and, in the event the data becomes suspicious, another gauge is selected for future reporting. Should conditions dictate that none of the three gauges may report accurately, a manual reading is taken and input into the web site. All three gauges utilized by SJRA are currently functioning properly.
NO WATER HAS BEEN RELEASED: Contrary to many rumors, no water has been released from the Lake Conroe dam since March 21, 2010.
TEXAS RESERVOIR LEVELS: Reservoirs across Texas are 65% full (the lowest level for this time of year since 1990). Normal for this time of year is 84% full. In the Austin area, the two lakes managed by the Lower Colorado River Authority are a combined 37% full. At a level of 200.67, the Lake Conroe reservoir would be measured as 99.8% full. Lake Houston and Lake Livingston are reported to be 99.3% and 100.0% full, respectively.
LAKE CONROE VEGETATION SURVEY: An annual survey of native and invasive vegetation on Lake Conroe is conducted at least annually by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD). Our next survey is scheduled for May, 2014. Preliminary observations made by both TPWD and the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) record limited Hydrilla, Giant Salvinia and Water Hyacinth at this time. Rising lake levels have “flushed out” some invasive vegetation from shallow coves, creek beds and marshy areas; and aquatic herbicide applications have been applied by SJRA on an “as-needed” basis. We will report the TPWD survey results upon study completion.
WHITE AMUR GRASS CARP: As you may recall, an estimated 2,052 surface acres of Lake Conroe were covered by the invasive aquatic plant Hydrilla in early, 2008. This represented 9.4% of Lake Conroe’s total surface acres. 123,765 White Amur Grass Carp were purchased by SJRA and LCA between March, 2006 and February, 2008 to combat the invasive weed. An estimated 10,000 White Amur remain alive today and are reaching the end of their typical 7 to 10 year life span. Upon completion of TPWD’s May, 2014 Lake Conroe Vegetation Survey reporting today’s Hydrilla status, a stakeholder group of SJRA, TPWD, LCA, angling organizations and others will meet to discuss when and how many White Amur should be purchased to maintain control of Hydrilla on Lake Conroe. We will report the results of that meeting.
ZEBRA MUSSELS: The presence of live Zebra Mussels or their larvae has now been confirmed in six (6) Texas water bodies: Lakes Texoma, Ray Roberts, Lewisville, Bridgeport, Belton and Lavon. To date, Zebra Mussels have not been detected in Lake Conroe. Due to the diligent efforts of marina owners on Lake Conroe, at least two (2) vessels have been prohibited from launching into Lake Conroe after the marina owners identified Zebra Mussels attached to the hulls of the vessels attempting to launch. Please be very aware of this state-wide problem and pay particular attention to any vessel being launched in Lake Conroe which has visited any of the infested lakes listed above. For more information regarding Zebra Mussels, please visit our LCA website at www.lakeconroeassociation.com.
SJRA BOAT DOCK LICENSES: It’s that time of year again and SJRA has billed boat dock owners on Lake Conroe for their annual boat dock license fee. The fee is based on the number of square feet on your boat dock (with a minimum fee of $60 per year). SJRA has 3,892 licensed residential boat docks and collects approximately $622,472 per year for those licenses. SJRA has 82 licensed commercial boat docks (13 of which are marinas) and collects approximately $413,570 per year for those licenses. Revenues collected from boat dock licenses are used to offset the cost to SJRA of permitting and inspecting new boat docks, ensuring compliance of existing boat docks, billing and collection of boat dock fees, overall administration of the program, and contribution towards maintenance of the dam and related facilities.
SJRA RESIDENTIAL IRRIGATION CONTRACTS: SJRA has historically provided a Landscape Irrigation License that allows lakefront property owners to use water from Lake Conroe for the sole purpose of landscape irrigation. The annual fee for this license is $150 and billings were mailed this month. The State of Texas requires anyone that diverts water from a State reservoir to enter into such a contract or permit. In February, 2014, SJRA mailed ALL lakefront property owners a notice informing them of this license requirement and asked that they complete the Water Diversion Form for Private Landscape Irrigation if they intended to divert any water during the upcoming year starting May 1. SJRA has 686 licensed residential irrigation contracts and collects approximately $102,900 per year for those licenses. Although the license does not restrict the annual quantity of water you may divert, SJRA has notified licensees that it may require a meter to be installed to measure the quantity of water you divert and reserves the right to implement a tiered rate system based on the quantity of water diverted in the future.
SJRA WATER CONSERVATION PLAN: SJRA has adopted a Water Conservation Plan and Drought Contingency Plan that addresses access to water provided by SJRA based on fluctuating lake levels on Lake Conroe. SJRA currently sells water out of Lake Conroe to residential and industrial customers located in Montgomery County and, upon completion of its Surface Water Treatment Facility and Transmission System, will be selling potable water throughout Montgomery County. These Plans will limit the quantity of water sold from Lake Conroe based on lake levels. As lake levels decrease due to seasonal fluctuations, droughts or disasters, SJRA will implement restrictions on the quantity of water delivered. More specific information on the Plans (and related lake levels) will be summarized in a future LCA President’s Update and can be further reviewed by visiting SJRA’s website at www.sjra.net.
SJRA LAKE CONROE WATERSHED PROTECTION PLAN: With the construction of SJRA’s Surface Water Treatment Facility and Transmission System to be completed in 2015, water from Lake Conroe will now be used for human consumption. More than ever, the quality of water in Lake Conroe must be maintained at a high level. SJRA has assembled a Stakeholder Group of approximately 22 volunteers to develop a Watershed Protection Plan over the next twelve (12) months. Through monthly meetings, this group will discuss topics to include septic discharge, storm sewer run-off, agricultural run-off, bulkheading, riparian buffer zones, dredging, water quality testing, and any number of related topics which affect Lake Conroe’s water quality. Representatives from many walks-of-life have been assembled to present views from a variety of perspectives and knowledge. Examples of Stakeholders include realtors, ranchers, marina owners, Public Works Directors, foresters, law enforcement, MUD’s, Community Health Services Directors, forest rangers, anglers, Chamber of Commerce, Planning & Development Directors, dredging/bulkheading companies, Texas Parks & Wildlife, and local organizations.
PURCHASING WATER TO MAINTAIN LAKE CONROE LAKE LEVELS: While Lake Conroe has almost reached “full pool”, many residents and businesses are concerned about fluctuating lake levels in our future. Many question “Why can’t we buy water from somewhere to keep Lake Conroe full at all times?” As this is an enormous topic, I will share just a couple of thoughts for your consideration. First, the question would be “Who is the WE” in “Why can’t WE buy water”? Is the “WE” SJRA, Montgomery County, City of Conroe, State of Texas, Federal Government or you? There is no budget in any of these entities to cover such a cost today. Second, a question would be “How much could the water cost?” Using round numbers, we’ll assume Lake Conroe to be 22,000 surface acres and the cost of raw water today to be $100 per acre foot (“acre foot” being the amount of water covering one square acre at one foot deep). Using this information, raising Lake Conroe by one foot would cost 22,000 surface acres times $100 per acre foot, or $2.2 million. While very simplified, I believe you will quickly see the dilemma. Any creative suggestions to the solution would be encouraged and greatly appreciated.
STATUS OF SJRA WATER TREATMENT FACILITY AND TRANSMISSION SYSTEM: As of March 31, 2014, the Water Treatment Facility was 51% complete at a cost of $97,362,711 and the Transmission System (pipelines) was 45% complete at a cost of $66,361,818. The estimated cost of Phase 1 of this project (capable of serving our needs through 2025) totals $490 million.
WHEN WILL SJRA START TAKING WATER FROM LAKE CONROE?: The Water Treatment Facility and Transmission System is estimated to be ready for initial testing by June, 2015. Assuming all testing goes as planned, SJRA estimates that it would start to deliver treated water from Lake Conroe by September 1, 2015. SJRA will remove the same quantity of water from Lake Conroe each day throughout the year, or approximately 1/32 of an inch per day. Seasonal fluctuations in water use will be satisfied by adjusting the amount of water delivered via water wells drilled into the Jasper Aquifer (i.e. limited water from the Jasper in Winter when water use is low and much greater water from the Jasper in Summer when water use is high).
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. For more information about the LCA, visit our website at www.lakeconroeassociation.com.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION AND ENJOY THE SUMMER TO COME.
AND DON’T FORGET TO VOTE ON MAY 27, 2014!!
Mike Bleier, President
Lake Conroe Association