The largest single-purpose reservoir in Texas, Lake Livingston covers 83,000 surface acres. Lake Livingston was constructed in 1969 by the Trinity River Authority (TRA) to provide drinking water to four counties plus the City of Houston.
Habitat loss, due to siltation and constructed bulkheads, has contributed to the decline of Lake Livingston’s littoral fish community. Other factors including invasive aquatic plant species, i.e., Water Hyacinth (Eichhoria crassipes), Giant Salvinia (Salvinia molesta) and Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) and an enforced drawdown resulting from damage to the dam caused by Hurricane Rita followed by extended drought, have resulted in the decline of the littoral fish community. Recreation on Lake Livingston is a major economic engine for numerous surrounding communities and the decline in the fishery has negatively affected local revenues.
Friends of Lake Livingston (FOLL) has partnered with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Black Bass Unlimited, Trinity River Authority, six local school districts and numerous other partners to establish shoreline native vegetation (water willow) to restore shallow-water habitat.
The first step in the littoral zone restoration effort on Lake Livingston was to educate students on the importance of functioning and vibrant aquatic ecosystems. To this end, we worked with six independent school districts to construct 22 plant nursery tanks. FOLL educated approximately 400 – 500 students on plant propagation, and planting methods. At the start of each participating class, FOLL explained the project’s desired results and benefits, the reasons why the project was undertaken and the expected outcomes. We followed up with a brief Q&A. High school students were then responsible for the cultivation of American Water-willow plants to subsequently be planted in preselected locations on Lake Livingston.
FOLL planted 3000-3500 American water willow into the littoral shoreline in two areas of Lake Livingston. The first planting (fall 2014) of 500-750 plants did not survive due to the planting depth (12” to 24”) being deeper than optimal for new plants. Due to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff recommendations subsequent plantings were in 6” of water. The spring, 2015 planting was canceled due to weather and high water. The fall, 2015 planting was completed in mid-September, and observations showed good plant top growth in the areas planted. The plants started going dormant in late November. We used 99 students and staff along with 60 volunteers in the planting process.
Community outreach is an important component of our project. We have made 15-20 presentations to local groups and organizations. We have 40-50 articles about our project in local newspapers and a major metropolitan newspaper did a full-page story on the project. Local television stations did stories on our project on several occasions. We developed a website (www.friendsoflakelivingston.com), Facebook page and brochures and flyers. We developed a Best Practices Guide and published it in February, 2016. This included a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) guide to the culture and planting of native aquatic vegetation along with input from a private aquatic plant wholesaler, TPWD and Trinity River Authority (TRA) supervision and problem solving skills and school staff recommendations. We now have a volunteer Horticulturist working on the project.
Economic growth is a vital aspect of the project. We hope to improve the aesthetic and recreational quality of Lake Livingston leading to the return of large bass tournaments and increase tourism by the promotion of birding and eco-tourism. Due to our project, the Texas Association of Bass Clubs has scheduled their TOP SIX Tournament on Lake Livingston in September, 2016. It is expected to draw 250-300 fishermen. They will also have clubs hosting their club tournaments in the coming months to pre-fish the lake. These tournaments are expected to generate approximately $200,000-$300,000 in revenue for the local economy. We have also established communications with an even larger tournament through one of our Partners.
Establishing native vegetation in reservoirs requires 5-7 years to build up a seed/tuber base to make the vegetative stands self-sufficient. We look at this effort as an on-going project. We will continue our outreach and local fund-raising efforts at community events. We will continue to expand our nursery facilities to include two additional schools with additional nursery tanks (totaling 29). We have made arrangements to use greenhouses located at three local high schools and an additional green house owned and operated by a private citizen so that we can propagate and maintain plants year round. With the additional facilities we expect to grow 10,000 plants annually for introduction into approved planting areas on Lake Livingston.
Like most aging reservoirs, Lake Livingston (LLFOR) has experienced degrading shallow-water (littoral) habitat which has negatively affected the quality of the fishery, particularly for Largemouth bass. The decline in the fishery has led to a decrease in fishing pressure and use resulting in a decrease in recreation-based economic activity to the local communities. The Lake Livingston Friends of Reservoirs has conducted extensive outreach efforts to the local communities and, as a result, has been able to engage local Chambers of Commerce and School Districts in attempts to restore the habitat and fishery in Lake Livingston. Reservoir habitat restoration is a multi-generational issue and through youth engagement in this project, LLFOR is educating high school students on ecological and economic issues associated with degrading habitats. At the same time, these students are taking ownership in their local resource and, hopefully, will continue to be environmental stewards and pass this conservation ethic forward. LLFOR’s efforts have been recognized by the National Fish Habitat Partnership, naming Lake Livingston as a 2015 Ten Waters to Watch recipient.
Once a vibrant bass fishery, reservoir aging has resulted in much of the shallow water habitat in Lake Livingston to be degraded. An aggressive effort to establish native water willow is bringing the bass fishery back.
Reservoir aging has led to habitat degradation due to siltation, turbidity, habitat and shoreline habitat loss. Shoreline development has let to a large number of constructed bulkheads further degrading spawning and nursery habitat for Largemouth bass.
Invasive plant species including Water Hyacinth and Giant Salvinia have further impacted habitat quality. Hurricane Rita in 2005 damaged the earthen dam site causing an enforced lake level reduction for almost a year, and severe drought conditions from 2011-2014 have led to further degradation of shallow water habitat and negatively affected bass recruitment.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists recommended a native aquatic plant restoration program to revitalize littoral habitat.