Lake Austin – Ecological Wasteland

Normally we post stories related to golf, and in a small way I suppose this story is related to golf.  Holes four, five and six at Austin Country Club run along Lake Austin, just south of the Pennybacker bridge on the Capital of Texas Highway, commonly known as the 360 bridge.

As players tee off on holes four and five, they are a few feet away from the water and often wander over and look into the water for fish, turtles, ducks and other wildlife.    Nowadays they still see turtles but they will not see fish, unless they are carp.  No minnows, no perch, no bass and no ducks.

Lake Austin along Austin Country Club

Lake Austin along Austin Country Club

The recent draining of the lake, which occurs every two years, revealed a lake that is completely void of any vegetation.  The ecosystem is gone.  Left in it’s place is a bare, sandy, muddy bottom.   You can enlarge the photo to the left by clicking on it.  Then use your back button to return to this posting.

Some Austin residents, primarily boaters and fishermen, are aware that the City of Austin and the Texas Parks and Wildlife worked together to try and solve the “problem” of too much hydrilla weed in Lake Austin.  The weed was a nuisance and somewhat hazardous to boaters and it presented maintenance issues for intake valves at the Tom Miller Dam on the lower end of the lake.

The approach taken to this “problem” was the introduction of an Asian grass carp that would eat hydrilla.   Apparently they did.  They ate all the hydrilla and everything else in the lake.  Now we have a different problem.  No vegetation and no ecosystem.   If you do a websearch for Lake Austin Asian Carp, you will find a number of stories related to the subject.  Click here for one such story.

One fisherman I spoke with has fished Lake Austin for a number of years.  He commented that the bass he used to fish for are all but gone and the remaining bass are smaller and not as healthy as they used to be.  That’s not surprising since they have nothing to eat.  The hydrill weed and other vegetation that provided an ecosystem for smaller minnows, perch and micro-organisms is gone.   And, apparently the carp, which are supposed to be grass eaters, have resorted to eating other fish.

This same fisherman also commented that the water used to be clear because the hydrilla and other vegetation filtered the water.  He said now it’s not so clear and often sandy or muddy looking.

That started me thinking about the impact of this on the Austin water supply, since many of us drink water filtered from Lake Austin.  I wonder if the filtration system for Austin is dealing with more sediment in the water?

At any rate, the boaters are happy, the fishermen are not.   I don’t fish or boat in Lake Austin but this outcome does cause me concern as an Austin resident.  I wonder what is being done to rectify this situation.


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