The water systems in and around the New Braunfels area are chock full of aquatic vegetation, and much of it has been breaking off, surfacing in Landa Lake and making its way through the Comal River system, according to city information.
It is with that in mind that city officials are reintroducing strategies to diminish those accumulations and minimize impacts to local wildlife.
During City Council's Feb. 8 meeting, Mark Enders, the watershed program manager for New Braunfels, led a discussion of a plan to reduce surface vegetation, which accumulates all year but is most prolific during the summer months.
The city already has some aquatic vegetation management in place through the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan, which mandates the city manage accumulations in Landa Lake. New Braunfels contracts with
Pristine Texas Rivers toward that effort at an annual cost of about $18,000 per year, according to city information.
Pristine Texas Rivers corrals the vegetation at Landa Lake once a week, allowing it to make its way to the Guadalupe River and toward the Lake Dunlap Dam, Enders said.
However, the effort needs to be ramped up, he said.
The issue of amassing vegetation has been presented to city officials since June 2018, he said, and since then the city has been testing various methods of removal, including using a boom net and a floating machine called a Weedo.
But Enders said method testing fizzled out after June 2019, around the time frame of the Lake Dunlap Dam failure, and it is now time to re-examine aquatic vegetation fragment removal.
City documents state there is not yet funding identified for the proposed vegetation removal, but Landa said next steps will include creating and presenting a plan to the city’s EAHCP committees and then reporting back to City Council with cost estimates.
“So, again, that is just trying to pick up where we left off a couple of years ago,” Enders said.
During the Feb. 8 discussion, City Council Member Justin Meadows emerged as a firm proponent of vegetation removal.
He said he has conducted his own research on the matter and said the main flora in question that accumulates in the area’s water systems—vallisneria—serves as a native local plant and is a major food source for nutria, a large rodent that can grow to more than 30 pounds.
“You can Google nutria rats. This is not just a problem that is affecting New Braunfels,” Meadows said. “They are an invasive nuisance to bodies of water across the country.”
Nutria rats feeding on the vallisneria are a primary reason the vegetation is accumulating locally and creating issues in local water bodies, he said.
"We've gotta be all hands on deck for the benefit of this waterway," Meadows said.
Toward the end of the discussion, Council Member Jason Hurta stated that if the vegetation management project is too cost prohibitive, then he was not likely to approve it.
Following direction from council, Enders agreed to formulate a timeline with city staff toward the creation of a plan that would involve other partner entities and cost estimates, and said more details would be forthcoming at a later date.