It’s been an early and beautiful Spring for us this year in Montgomery County. But, based on yesterday’s heat and humidity, that soon will pass and we’ll be welcoming (???) another Texas Summer. Yet, if it’s going to be hot, what better place than on or around our fun-filled Lake Conroe? Let us share with you some brief information about lake conditions and safety.
BOAT INSPECTIONS BY MONTGOMERY COUNTY CONSTABLES: Law enforcement in Montgomery County continues to work towards improved safety on our roads and waterways. We’ve had “No Refusal Weekends” for some time now as an attempt to curb alcohol and/or drug related accidents in our vehicles and boats. The Montgomery County Constables Department Lake Division is soon implementing an enhanced boating safety check to enforce existing laws on the lake. The same rules still apply, but you may now be checked prior to launching your boat or jet ski from a public boat launch.
Starting this Memorial Day Weekend, the Montgomery County Constables will be providing personnel to check boats and jet skis prior to allowing you to put them in the water. A total of nine (9) public boat launches on Lake Conroe will be participating in the program. Three teams of three people (with each team consisting of two Constables and one volunteer) will man three public boat launches on a given Holiday Weekend Saturday…..then move the three teams to three other public boat launches on Sunday…..and then move those three teams to the remaining three public boat launches on Monday. It is anticipated that the teams will work from approximately 10AM to 2PM.
Should anyone be interested in joining the Constables’ safety check team as a volunteer, the Constables Lake Division will welcome your participation.
The boating safety check will be enforcing the same safety rules that have applied for years and which are regularly done on the water by the Constables Lake Division. It is anticipated that safety checks done on the land (prior to launching) will be much safer for all involved than performing these checks in the open lake, and should be able to be completed in a shorter period of time. Upon a satisfactory completion of the safety check, the boater will be provided a bright-colored card by the Constable which remains valid for that one day only. In the event that you are subsequently “pulled over” on the water that day by the Constables Lake Division for a safety check, you will simply show the bright-colored card and not be asked to perform the safety check on the lake. Please keep in mind that the bright-colored card will note the number of passengers on the boat and that you had a sufficient number of life vests at the time of the check. Should you add passengers to your boat later that day and fail to hold a sufficient number of life vests, you will remain subject to citation and fine.
The boating safety checklist includes:
- Personal floatation device that is size appropriate for each passenger. These devices must be “serviceable” (they work) and “accessible” (not in a locked cabinet on board)
- A Class IV throwable or ring buoy
- A charged and accessible fire extinguisher
- A sound producing device for emergency
- The Texas Parks & Wildlife registration card for the vessel (no copies allowed)
- A valid driver’s license for identification purposes only
The safety checklist for a jet ski is the same as above except for not requiring a Class IV throwable or ring buoy.
Operators of watercraft on Texas lakes must be a minimum of 16 years of age. An exception to utilize watercraft at 13 years of age may be obtained by satisfactorily completing an approved boating safety course.
It should be noted that these safety checks at public boat launches are considered “voluntary” and may be refused by the boat owner. Boating safety rules enforced by the Constables only apply “in the water” and not “on land”. If you are in violation of any of the safety rules BEFORE you launch, you will asked to obtain the missing safety items prior to launching. If you are in violation of any of the safety rules AFTER you launch and are “in the water”, you are issued a citation by the Constables with a fine attached. I’d guess that should you choose to refuse such a safety check on the land and launch your boat, it will be so noted and you may be “pulled over” on the water for that check by the Constables shortly thereafter.
For boaters who do not use public boat launches (private dock owners, country club marinas), you will remain subject to random boating safety checks on the water as in the past by the Constables. If you are checked “on the water”, you will NOT be issued a bright-colored card documenting your passing of the safety check. The Constables have made this decision based on the time, safety and danger of writing out the bright-colored card while on the water.
ZEBRA MUSSELS: The terribly-invasive species called Zebra Mussels have now made their way into Lake Livingston based on the first documented case last week. Zebra Mussels had already been documented in the Trinity River and at least five (5) Texas lakes. Zebra Mussels are typically transported from one water body to another by attaching themselves to your boat or trailer. Texas Parks & Wildlife have implemented their “Clean, Drain and Dry” Program as an educational and enforcement tool to stem the infestation of additional Texas lakes. Should you observe anyone launching a boat into Lake Conroe that you believe to contain Zebra Mussels, contact a Game Warden regarding the enforcement of transporting Zebra Mussels as they can issue an Invasive Species Citation which is a Class C Misdemeanor. Please help to protect our Texas lakes.
INVASIVE VEGETATION ON LAKE CONROE: Texas Parks & Wildlife and the San Jacinto River Authority were pleased to report to us last week that Lake Conroe is in wonderful aquatic health. Giant Salvinia is primarily controlled by a spraying program and after only one treatment this year, they report Giant Salvinia limited to only 40 acres at this time (versus approximately 200 acres at this time last year). Water Hyacinth (also treated by spraying) is reported to be minimal and under control. Hydrilla appears to be restricted to only experimental “cages” where White Amur grass carp cannot reach the invasive. When Hydrilla reappears in Lake Conroe (which it will inevitably do), a balanced, mutually-agreed upon stocking program of White Amur will be implemented immediately.
NATIVE VEGETATION ON LAKE CONROE: Subsequent to the 2006-2008 Hydrilla infestation and the introduction of White Amur grass carp, we found Lake Conroe’s native vegetation to be terribly damaged and reduced. From its height of approximately 2,000 acres of native vegetation in 2005, we experienced a decrease to less than 200 acres of native vegetation by 2010. Native vegetation is extremely important for water quality, limiting shoreline erosion, and providing fish habitat. Through the efforts of Texas Parks & Wildlife, the San Jacinto River Authority, and volunteers from a variety of angling organizations, numerous stockings of native vegetation have been added to Lake Conroe to replenish the depleted resource. Texas Parks & Wildlife reported 334 acres of native vegetation last Summer and anticipates a significant increase in that acreage when they complete their next lake study in Summer, 2017. A plant called Water Willow has proven to be a wonderful success in the native plant restoration program.
On behalf of the Board of the Lake Conroe Association, we would like to thank you for your interest in Lake Conroe and your support of our non-profit organization. Previous LCA President’s Updates, informative articles, and links to other valuable websites can be found at www:lcatx.com. Should you have any questions or desire to provide feedback, we can be reached via that website or you may contact me directly at [email protected]. Enjoy your Summer and be safe out there.
Mike Bleier, President
Lake Conroe Association