Instream Flow Restoration and Watershed Conservation in the Cypress Basin, Texas

, The Nature Conservancy | Author(s): Ryan Smith, The Nature Conservancy of Texas; Joe Trungale, Texas Conservation Science; Richard Lowerre, Caddo Lake Institute; Marcia Hackett, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Mike Montagne, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Caddo Lake along with its swamps and tributary bayous support an amazing diversity of aquatic ecosystems and has been designated a wetland of global significance by the Ramsar Convention. The life blood of Caddo Lake is the network of tributary creeks and bayous that drain into the wetland complex of the lake’s upper reaches. But now the ecology of the main tributary, Big Cypress Bayou, has been altered by flow regulation by Lake O’ the Pines dam. And, additional threats from giant salvinia and other invasive plants, water quality impacts and others have added stress to the ecosystem. Several conservation organizations, led by the Caddo Lake Institute, have formed partnerships to address these threats to the watershed. The Sustainable Rivers Program, a partnership of The Nature Conservancy and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has managed dam operations to enhance the natural ecology of the bayou and lake downstream. The Corps has been releasing recommended flows to allow researchers to gather more information to evaluate the success of restoration efforts. This paper presents results of flow restoration work and associated ecological monitoring and summarizes habitat protection projects, paddlefish restoration and invasive species management in Caddo Lake and the Cypress basin.