Lake Austin

Properties along Lake Austin are exempt from city taxes.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Housing affordability is one of Austin's biggest challenges during this period of economic growth. Even after someone buys a home or rents property, as the value of that property goes up, so does the annual tax bill. But some of the most desirable homes in Austin – a few hundred right on Lake Austin – are not subject to any city property taxes.

That might be about to change.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The invasive zebra mussel has been moving south for years, leaving destruction its wake. Now, it’s in Lake Travis (update: and Lake Austin), and it will soon make its way downstream, changing the look, feel and maybe even the taste of Austin’s lakes forever.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Every morning hundreds of thousands of people traverse Austin's congested roads to get to work. Most of them have probably thought: There’s got to be a better way.

This is the story of one man who found it.

Mose Buchele/KUT

In the past, hydrilla carpeted whole swaths of Lake Austin. The invasive plant ruined recreation and damaged ecosystems on the lake. So to counteract that, the City of Austin occasionally introduced tens of thousands of sterilized grass carp to eat the hydrilla. But the city is now on the lookout for unintended consequences.

You’ve got to hand it to the grass carp: They did their job swimmingly. There’s no hydrilla problem in the lake right now, but there is concern the thousands of hungry fish have turned their attention to native plant species, and even other fish.

“Yeah, some of the anglers have talked about while they’re off fishing that they’re actually able to catch grass carp on crank baits. So, that’s what really got their hackles up,” says Dr. Brent Bellinger, an environmental scientist with the Watershed Protection Department. “Well, if they’re going after something that looks like shad on crank baits, they might be going after shad in general.”

Dan O'Keefe, Michigan Sea Grant

The battle for Lake Austin continues: 6,000 sterile Asian grass carp were released into the lake this week in an effort to combat the invasive water plant hydrilla. That brings the total number of Asian grass carp stocked in Lake Austin to 11,000 this summer and 40,000 overall.

Hydrilla is a non-native aquatic plant that has spread rapidly in Lake Austin since it was first discovered in 1999. It grows to be very thick and can clog up pipes that carry drinking water from the lake. It can also cause problems for those who use the lake for recreation.

Mary Gilroy, an environmental scientist with the City of Austin, told KUT News earlier this year that if the plants get thick enough, they pose a danger to swimmers.

Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

While you're remembering the social and economic achievements of American workers this weekend, some things to keep in mind:

There are undoubtedly other rules to follow to ensure personal safety, effective human relationships and good-old-fashioned-holiday-fun, but here are two to keep in mind:

1. No Personal Watercraft on Lake Austin

If your idea of fun is running fast and free on your jetski or "personal watercraft," then stay away from Lake Austin this weekend.  As in previous years, there's a ban in effect.  It's from sunset Friday until sunrise Tuesday.

Photo courtesy jdearingdavis on flickr athttp://www.flickr.com/photos/hayesandjenn/4553357532/in/photostream/

Officials in Oklahoma have closed some of the state's lakes because of blue-green algae outbreaks. The fast growth of already-present algae, paired with high temperatures and still water, pose serious risk to swimmers.

Image courtesy City of Austin Watershed Protection Department

Lake Austin is getting lower.  The Lower Colorado River Authority is drawing down the lake's level so that City of Austin crews can do battle with hydrilla, an invasive water plant that clogs the lake. 

Lake Austin at 360 Bridge
Image courtesy atmtx http://www.flickr.com/photos/atmtx/

Annoying, non-native plants are growing out of control in Lake Austin, and the city is asking the Lower Colorado River Authority to drop lake levels next month to help fend them off. Lake Austin is a stretch of the Colorado River between the Mansfield and Tom Miller dams.