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Lake Austin to be lowered to fight invasive plants

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Posted: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 1:21 pm

In a few days the Lower Colorado River Authority will begin lowering Lake Austin to help fight invasive aquatic plants.

    The draw will also allow lakeside residents to build and maintain docks.

    Lake Austin will be lowered 12 feet starting Jan. 3. By Feb. 13 the lake is expected to be filled back to normal levels.

    LCRA officials warn that Lake Austin could be refilled quickly with little or no notice in the event of a flood or if LCRA is required to provide hydroelectric generating capacity in an emergency.

    Officials suggest lakeside residents should remain aware of the lake level and pay attention to weather forecasts when performing work. Officials remind residents to keep tools and equipment away from the shoreline.

    LCRA has periodically lowered Lake Austin at the city of Austin’s request since the 1950s to help curb the growth of aquatic plants and for residential construction and maintenance.

    Just a few months ago, surveys by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department showed there were more than 300 hundred acres of the fast-growing hydrilla and milfoil weeds in Lake Austin.

    The densest pockets are at the Steiner Ranch boat dock and Mary Quinlan Park and upstream to Mansfield Dam — and to a lesser degree from Mary Quinlan to Emma Long Park, said Mary Gilroy, city of Austin Environmental Scientist.

Hydrilla and Eurasian water milfoil, commonly known as duckweed, create a dense mat that is hard to swim in, gets tangled in boat motors and intakes, and is not aesthetically pleasing, Gilroy said.

    The last time the hydrilla came close to the current peak levels was in early 2000 when the weeds spread to over 300 acres.

    Lake drawdowns help control hydrilla and milfoil by exposing the plants to the air, killing off the leaves and stems by dehydration. It provides temporary relief.

    The lake was last lowered in January 2008. The drought of 2009 prevented a drawdown earlier this year.

    Residents planning work on lakeside structures should contact the following city of Austin offices:

    • For exemptions for repairing old boat docks or removing sediment under docks: Call the Development Assistance Center 512- 974-6370.

    • For rebuilding or building a new boat dock: call the Intake Section 512-974-2689. A small project site plan must be submitted.

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