Lake bed vegetation concerns residents

June 22, 2013

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The exposed lake beds of Lake Granbury are being invaded by vegetation.

A couple of waterfront property owners are concerned that it could pose an obstacle for boaters – once the lake level is up enough to actually get a vessel in the water again.

John Holt, who said he moved to the Brown subdivision west of Weatherford Highway in 1987, believes the vegetation he can see across the water from his boat dock is salt cedar. He was alarmed that it grew rapidly in the last few months since growing season hit.

“They’re growing pretty quick,” Holt said. “I’ve mowed them and sprayed them by my dock. They’re expanding, taking over more area.”

Salt cedar – aka tamarisk – is a bushy, small tree that hog water and could pose a potential risk for boat propellers in shallow water.

A website called www.texasinvasives.org describes salt cedars as “spreading shrubs or small trees” that can grow up to 20 feet tall. Salt cedars monopolize limited sources of water, the website says, and can increase the “frequency, intensity and effect of fires and floods.”

Brazos River Authority (BRA) spokeswoman Judi Pierce was not in the Waco headquarters office this week. Another BRA representative in the headquarters, Mike Anderson, said he and others in the office were not able to identify the species in question after looking at photographs submitted by email.

The Hood County News contacted Barron Rector, associate professor and extension range specialist at Texas A&M University, about vegetation spotted in a dry lake bed off of Randy Court north of Granbury. That spot is just southeast of Holt’s residence, which is across the lake from Lake Granbury Estates. Rector examined photos taken in that location and said that vegetation was a mixture of three or four species of grass, including “a lot of love grass.”

“On that shore, nothing looks like salt cedars. The plants dock-side are not woody,” Rector said. “Across the dry lake bed looks similar. That silted soil is very fertile. Seeds flow and get deposited on every river bank.”

When the lake rebounds to a more normal level, the vegetation will eventually die off from lack of sunlight and too much water, Rector explained.

“If it’s totally submerged, if it’s under water, they’re going to die,” he said. “They can’t stand to be submerged.”

Rector said the growth could actually create some great fishing spots, but it could also be a hazard to boat propellers for a significant length of time.

“It sure could,” Rector said. “Once the plant dies, the plant is going to decompose within about a year.”

Both Hood County Extension Agent Marty Vahlenkamp and Robert Theimer, a Cleburne Master Naturalist, also saw the photographs of the vegetative growth and said they don’t think it’s salt cedar.

Theimer is scheduled to conduct an invasive species workshop today (9 a.m.-4 p.m.) at the Hood County Development District No. 1, 6430 Smoky Hill Court, Suite 104, in Acton.

RATHER BE FISHING

As of Thursday, Lake Granbury was still near the record of 7 feet low – about 6.9 feet. The Brazos River Authority has predicted it could drop 2-1/2 more feet this summer.

Holt said that if the lake weren’t so low, he would be doing his usual thing – fishing several times a week. He said it’s been a full year since there has been any water beneath his boathouse – and far longer than that since he has been able to use his boat.

Holt said he has not been able to put his boat in the water in four years, and has only been able to use his jet ski about four weeks in the last two years.

“June first they always let about a foot of water out (of the lake) for some reason,” Holt said. “Now we have bankfront property. It’s useless. I don’t like it at all.”

Holt acknowledged the drought conditions, but suggested that since the BRA is selling water it should handle the vegetation issue so that boats can be launched from their regular docks when the lake rises.

“If the lake was full we wouldn’t have this problem,” Holt said. “Since they’re selling water, maybe they could use some of the profits to start mowing the lake. They need to start mowing their property. Why not?”

But on Tuesday, Anderson stated, “We don’t offer that service.”

Anderson said that while it’s the responsibility of each lakefront property owner to perform such maintenance, they also must follow BRA guidelines “to protect the integrity of the lake.” That means property owners must call the local BRA office (817-573-3212) before clearing out growth in the lake bed, Anderson said.

FRUSTRATED

Linda Tincher said she and her husband Larry – now both in their 60s – bought their lakefront property on Randy Court in the Moore Estates subdivision near the north end of the lake about 15 years ago because they wanted to have a dock for boating.

“There is a reason you buy a house on the lake, and that’s to have access to it whenever you choose to,” Linda said. “But we don’t have that, and we haven’t for at least the past couple of years.”

She said they, along with their neighbors, are frustrated. They also wonder what problems the growth could cause as it continues to grow.

MASSIVE FOREST

“My husband says those make for good fishing, but the problem is getting the boat around them because it’s getting so thick,” said Linda, whose husband works as a welder in Fort Worth. “It does concern me. We don’t want that kind of massive forest out there.”

The lake level problem is worse than last year, she said.

“We did have little strips of water last year,” Linda said. “It can definitely fill up if we get the rain. But it’s how much they (the BRA) leave in here – that’s the real key.”

[email protected] | 817-573-7066, ext. 254

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