Finding Workable Solutions to Reservoir Fish Habitat Manipulations During Low-Water Conditions

Tuesday, September 10, 2013: 10:20 AM
Izard (Statehouse Convention Center)
John Findeisen , Inland Fisheries Division, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Mathis, TX
Mark Webb , Inland Fisheries Division, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Snook, TX
Low water/drought conditions in Texas’s reservoirs provide controlling authorities with the opportunity to remove previously submersed timber from high-navigation areas.  In 2011, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) fisheries biologists were given the opportunity to provide input on lakes Conroe and Dunlap regarding timber that could be cut or marked in order to decrease navigational hazards while preserving fish and wildlife habitat.   The San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA; Lake Conroe) and the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA; Lake Dunlap) began or approved targeted timber cutting below the water’s surface on these reservoirs while water levels were abnormally low.  Shortly after, lake-front property owners on both reservoirs began unsanctioned cuttings of timber, permanently destroying fish and wildlife habitat.  TPWD, having no regulatory powers to prohibit the rogue cuttings, relied upon SJRA and GBRA to halt the activities.  Both controlling authorities imposed restrictions on specific areas of the reservoirs, immediately stopping all unsanctioned cutting activities.  Advisory workgroups were created and included individuals from each controlling authority, TPWD, lake-front property owner groups, anglers, Friends of Reservoirs groups, and recreational boaters.  In each case, the workgroups reached consensus upon timber-removal guidelines and are working to replace habitat destroyed by unsanctioned cuttings.