Citizens push for the removal of weed mats in Lake Dunlap

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A majority of the crowd at the March 25 New Braunfels City Council meeting was present to advocate for one cause—removing weed mats from Lake Dunlap. The weed mats are formed when aquatic vegetation lumps together as they move through waterways.

While the lake is not located in the bounds of the city limits, Charles Irvine, an environmental lawyer representing the Preserve Lake Dunlap Association, said the city has a responsibility to remove the mats.

“We come to you in a spirit of cooperation and a spirit of coordination,” Irvine said. “We’ve been in discussions with staff and the city attorney to try and figure out what is the way that we can try to move past this.”

Thom Hardy, chief science officer at Texas State University’s Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, analyzed where the mats were coming from. His findings concluded a majority of them originate in Landa Lake before making their way down the Comal and Guadalupe rivers before spilling into Lake Dunlap.

Residents say they have dealt with the issue for years. Jay Harmon, president of PLDA, said the issue was presented to the council in 2014.

Irvine and members of the PLDA said the mats also accumulate litter as they float downstream, posing health and safety risks. It also makes visitors of the Lake not want to swim, some attendees said. The group provided a petition containing about 1,000 signatures to the city attorney, but City Council did not take action on the item at the meeting.

“Maybe we can reconvene in the fall and see where we end up,” Irvine said. “… We’re not about to file any lawsuits right now; I mean, this is not where we are. We want to work with the city and find a solution to this problem.”

In the meantime, the Meadows Center will cover costs and logistics of conducting the first test run of weed mat removal this summer. The goal is to explore the costs and logistics, Irvine said. As of now, Hardy estimates the cost will be $500 for each day of removal.

“I think there’s going to be a number of issues that need to be addressed. We don’t want to underestimate what the cost of this will be,” City Manager Robert Camareno said. “… We don’t have any money in this year’s budget to address this during this upcoming season, so I just want to make sure that that’s clear to the council that any contribution on behalf of the city will require a budget amendment that will come from the general fund.”

Some of the options that will be explored include teams manually hauling the mats from the water and using mechanical harvesters.

“Just in the spirit of being a good neighbor, we have a willing partner here that’s willing to work on this together into the future, and I think we do a good job in New Braunfels of showing communities around us how to be a good neighbor,” Council Member Justin Meadows said.

New Braunfels Mayor Barron Casteel said the council will revisit the issue on its April 22 agenda so the city and PLDA can have the opportunity to collaborate further.

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Rachel Nelson
Rachel Nelson is editor of the New Braunfels edition of Community Impact Newspaper. She covers local business, new development, city and county government, health care, education and transportation. Rachel relocated to Central Texas from Amarillo in 2009 and is a graduate of Texas State University's School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
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