Lake Brownwood is gushing over the spillway, but officials see something they don't like

Steve Nash
Brownwood Bulletin
Chris Mitchell and his daughter, Madison Mitchell, watch water from Lake Brownwood flow over the spillway Wednesday. To the right, out of the camera's view, water plunged in a series of waterfalls into the Pecan Bayou.

LAKE BROWNWOOD — A few at a time, spectators arrived Wednesday at the overlook above the Lake Brownwood spillway. They stayed briefly — just long enough to enjoy the spectacle of water flowing plunging over the edge into a series of turbulent  waterfalls into the Pecan Bayou.

“Awesome,” Brownwood resident Chris Mitchell said repeatedly as he stood next to his 21-year-old daughter, Madison Mitchell of Austin.

“It doesn’t happen very often," Mitchell said. "It does something for the soul, it seems like. It sure is beautiful from above. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it this way. “It’s more beautiful than I remember.” 

Wednesday afternoon, recent rainfall had pushed the lake to 1.5 feet over the spillway. By Thursday morning, the lake level had fallen slightly to 1.3 feet above spillway, according to officials.

"We are on the way down," said Brown County Water Improvement District General Manager John Allen.

The beginning of the summer season is actually a mix of 'good news-bad news' for Lake Brownwood.

A waterfall is pictured near the Lake Brownwood spillway Wednesday. The lake was 1.5 feet above the spillway Wednesday. The lake level had fallen slightly by Thursday morning.

The Lake is full but officials find zebra mussels

The good news is that the lake is full. The bad news is that two juvenile zebra mussels were found June 1 on the pontoon of a boat at Lake Brownwood.

Zebra mussels are small invasive mollusks that can infest a lake, clogging pipes and pumps and filtering out algae that other species need for food, according to www.usgs.gov.

The water improvement district will take steps to protect the lake’s pipes and pumps from the zebra mussels — but it will be expensive to do, Allen said.

“It’s great that the lake is full, but it is kind of a downer that we have (zebra mussels) now because that’s just an added expense that will never go away — unless scientists come up with a way to get rid of them,” Allen said.

A single adult female can produce a million offspring in a year, Allen said.

Zebra Mussels

In April, the Inland Fisheries Division of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department detected mussel plankton samples, collected at two sites approximately 3 miles apart at Lake Brownwood in November.

No adult zebra mussels were found at that time, the Parks and Wildlife said in a press release.

Zebra mussel larvae probably arrived in Lake Brownwood on a boat that had been in another body of water, Allen said.

But on June 1, a pontoon boat owner saw what he suspected were two zebra mussels on a pontoon after taking the boat to a car wash to clean it, Allen said.

See Sunday's print edition and www.brownwoodtx.com for additional details on the zebra mussels issue.