Texas is ramping up its efforts in the Pineywoods ecoregion of East Texas to fight the invasion of aquatic species that pose significant threats to the state’s environment and its economy.
Aquatic invasive species are costing Texas billions of dollars annually in lost property values, lost water, lost potential for power generation, degradation of the state’s natural resources, and management costs. The potential economic loss in property values alone because of continued aquatic invasive infestation in Texas has been estimated at upwards of $17.5 billion. Additionally, when left untreated, these plants can significantly impair outdoor recreational activities such as boating, fishing and waterfowl hunting.
Efforts to combat these impacts got a much-needed boost this year, thanks to $6.5 million in legislative appropriations during the last session that state officials believe will be crucial to address the problem over this two-year biennium.
“Without adequate management efforts, the problem will only continue to worsen,” said Rep. Chris Paddie.
“Combating the spread of invasive species is one of the most pressing issues for our lakes, businesses and sportsmen,” he said. “The increased funding shows the legislature’s commitment to combating the spread of invasive species, and I look forward to working with the Parks and Wildlife Department to combat these species.”
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), in partnership with other agencies and stakeholders, has been battling against the spread of aquatic invasive plants such as giant salvinia, water hyacinth, and hydrilla for decades with limited success. Research into various management options has shown promise toward controlling the spread of these plants, but come with a price tag that until now has been out of reach.
As a result of the new funding, additional resources are being directed at aquatic invasive management. This includes $1.4 million for herbicidal vegetation control treatment, biological treatment. Also funded are new TPWD staff positions in East Texas dedicated to aquatic invasive management, including capabilities for small infestation rapid response.
Other funded projects include $400,000 for a zebra mussel and giant salvinia outreach and public awareness marketing campaign, development of a new giant salvinia herbicide, exotic fish research, and native plant restoration.
Some of the work has already begun. For example:
Out of the 20-plus public water bodies containing giant salvinia in Texas, Caddo Lake’s and Toledo Bend Reservoir’s giant salvinia infestations have required the most effort in the battle against invasive species in northeast Texas. Contractors sprayed over 2,700 acres of giant salvinia at Caddo Lake and 3,300 acres at Toledo Bend Reservoir between April and August 2015. Additional spraying at both water bodies has been conducted in October and November.
TPWD released 132,000 adult giant salvinia weevils in Caddo Lake and 53,000 in Toledo Bend Reservoir during 2015. These weevils were either raised at TPWD greenhouse facilities in Jasper or collected from the existing weevil population at B. A. Steinhagen Reservoir.
●Lake Murvaul has small infestations of giant salvinia and water hyacinth. TPWD has been working closely with the controlling authority, Panola County Fresh Water Supply to manage these invasive species. Herbicide spraying has been conducted several times in 2015 to keep the coverage of these plants as low as possible.
The partnerships developed among entities within the region have helped to minimize the impact invasive species are having at other area reservoirs. The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers at Lake O’ the Pines conducts inspections of boat ramps and boat trailers to identify any giant salvinia, or other invasives that may have been transported from another lake. TPWD has worked closely with the Corps and the Northeast Texas Municipal Water District to conduct surveys of other invasive species on Lake O’ the Pines and develop management strategies to reduce their impact to the environment and folks that use the lake. The Corps and the water district funded herbicide treatment of water hyacinth and alligator weed during 2015.
TPWD successfully identified new giant salvinia infestations at Brandy Branch, Gilmer, and Lake Fork reservoirs. During routine invasive species inspections of boat ramps, biologists found that giant salvinia had been recently introduced by boaters.
TPWD used floating containment booms to isolate plants to the boat ramp area and individual plants were physically removed and the area was sprayed with herbicide.
Infestations were eliminated at Brandy Branch and Gilmer reservoirs. Containment booms were removed at Brandy Branch and Gilmer, but deployment continues at Lake Fork while the need for follow-up treatments persists.
• • •
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has signed temporary leased access agreements with four Guadalupe River property owners to expand public fishing access to the trout fishery downstream of Canyon Lake.
Public fishing access will be available at Mountain Breeze Campground, Rio Guadalupe Resort (formerly Rio Raft and Resort), and Whitewater Sports from December 4, 2015, through May 4, 2016. This provides two additional months of access from previous years at these sites. Public fishing access will also be available at Camp Huaco Springs from December 4, 2015, through March 12, 2016.
Recognized as one of the top 100 trout streams in America and the southernmost trout stream in the United States, this segment of the Guadalupe River is managed through special fishing regulations (tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/fish/management/stocking/guadalupe.phtml) and is stocked in the winter months by the TPWD (tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/fish/management/stocking/trout_stocking.phtml) and the Guadalupe River Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
The leases provide anglers with free access to the Guadalupe River at the four properties from 30 minutes before daylight until 30 minutes after dusk.
Anglers will be able to use the properties for bank fishing and to launch non-motorized watercraft such as rafts, kayaks and canoes for fishing. The leases were made possible with funding provided by the US Department of Agriculture Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program.
For additional information or directions to the leased fishing access areas, call or visit the following websites.
● Mountain Breeze Campground (mountainbreezecamp.com)
9250 River Road, New Braunfels, TX 78132, (830) 964-2484
●Rio Guadalupe Resort (10 vehicle limit) (rioguadaluperesort.com)
14130 River Road, New Braunfels, TX 78132, (830) 964-3613
●Whitewater Sports (floattheguadalupe.com)
11860 Farm to Market 306, New Braunfels, TX 78132, (830) 964-3800
●Camp Huaco Springs (www.camphuacosprings.com)
4150 River Road, New Braunfels, TX 78132, (830) 625-5430
For information on river fishing access areas throughout the state, including site specific restrictions, visit www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fishboat/fish/recreational/rivers/.