The last time Lake Austin was surveyed it was determined that it had one of the highest readings of hydrilla ever recorded and it has become much more than just a nuisance.
One quick look from a boaters point of view said a lot about hydrilla's rapid growth. Steve Present who has been enjoying the lake for more than 10 years said this is this is the worst he's ever seen it.
"If I get in the middle of this patch of hydrilla, my boat will get stuck in there," said Present, as we rode his boat up and down Lake Austin. "It will overheat. I won't be able to move, and it will be all over my propeller -- so as we talk, I don't want to float into it because I know what it does trying to get out."
He used to worry about the inconvenience. Now Present says the "twine-prickly" texture of hydrilla could become a swimmer's death trap.
"At night, if you don't see one of these patches of hydrilla and you hit it with your boat, your boat is coming to a stop... quickly," Present said. "Somebody could fall out or if you have a skier behind you and that person falsl in the middle of this patch, it's going to be scary."
Hydrilla growth has gotten so bad you can literally see large pods floating down the lake often time even carrying small passengers on board. In July, it was estimated 580 acres of Lake Austin was covered with hydrilla.
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City of Austin environmentalist Mary Gilroy said hydrilla has exploded due to the drought and sunlight reaching lower levels.
"Lake Austin levels aren't dropping, but Lake Travis levels are dropping," said Gilroy. "That means the water in Lake Austin is much warmer, and warm water and decreased flow really helps hydrilla grow."
She said hydrilla could pose a huge risk to homes along the shore -- especially the next time the area sees heavy rains.
"It can actually impede a flood flow through the lakes, so when we had a big flood in July 2002 the hydrilla was so thick that it actually caused flooding of some homes that would not normally flood," said Gilroy.
And no one is more aware of that than Present and his neighbors.
"Water has to come through this lake to go downstream, and it's going to be a serious problem," Present said.
It will take several days for the results of the new survey to come back before the City of Austin can determine what the next step will be when it comes to tackling the hydrilla problem.
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