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Lake O' the Pines

This is a community project to improve conditions for aquatic life by increasing dissolved oxygen levels in the Lake O' the Pines. Together, the adopted total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) and approved implementation plan (I-Plan) are the road map to improved water quality.

photo of lake o the pines
Lake O' the Pines
map of the Lake O' the Pines TMDL watershed

Watershed Counties: Cass, Harrison, Marion, Morris, Upshur
Parameter: Dissolved oxygen
River Basin: Cypress Creek
Segment: 0403

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Project Background and Goal

In 2000, TCEQ found that dissolved oxygen levels in Lake O’ the Pines were less than optimal for supporting fish and other aquatic species. Oxygen, which dissolves in water, is essential for the survival of aquatic life. While the amount of dissolved oxygen in water fluctuates naturally, human activities can cause unusually or chronically low dissolved oxygen levels.

The goal of this project is to reduce oxygen-demanding substances and improve water quality conditions for aquatic life.

In 2013 and 2014, stakeholders thoroughly reviewed the original I-Plan (2008) and completed a revised I-Plan to continue their efforts in improving water quality.

Learn more about the state’s program for managing water quality by reading Preserving and Improving Water Quality.

Watershed Description

Lake O’ the Pines and Big Cypress Creek (its primary tributary) are located in the Cypress Creek Basin. Lake O’ the Pines provides water for eight cities and towns, numerous rural water districts, and several steel manufacturers and electricity generators. The lake is also an important resource to the timber industry and to agricultural enterprises such as the poultry industry, dairies, and cattle operations, and for irrigation. Boating and fishing for trophy bass, catfish, and crappie lure large numbers of people to the watershed each year.

The headwaters of Big Cypress Creek originate in southeast Hopkins County. Below Lake Bob Sandlin, the creek, which forms the county line between Titus and Camp Counties, flows southeast to Lake O’ the Pines. The watershed is characterized by gently rolling wooded hills and broad, frequently flooded, densely vegetated stream bottoms. Post oak savannah is predominant in the western portion of the basin, while piney woods are common in the eastern portion.

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Get Involved

Stakeholders and TCEQ are working to implement the I-Plan with the Northeast Texas Municipal Water District and its steering committee for the Clean Rivers Program. The steering committee includes representatives from state and federal agencies, cities, industries, citizen groups, local governments, universities, water districts, agriculture groups, and other water user groups. The steering committee advised the TCEQ on development of the TMDL, and then built the I-Plan with the stakeholders. In 2014, Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) coordinated stakeholder involvement in a review of the I-Plan and its progress.


The organizations listed below are members of the Coordination Committee for improving the water quality in Lake O’ the Pines. All of the links in this section exit the TCEQ website.


The execution of I-Plan is being led by the Northeast Texas Municipal Water District in partnership with stakeholders in the region. Assessment in 2016 indicated that conditions have improved; however, dissolved oxygen concentrations remain below the criteria for support of aquatic life in the upper 3,700 acres of the lake. Status of TMDL implementation is available in the latest Cypress Creek Basin Highlights Report on the Water District’s website.

In 2013 and 2014, the Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) worked with stakeholders to evaluate and revise their I-Plan to continue their efforts in improving water quality.

Approved I-Plan

On July 9, 2008, the Commission approved the I-Plan for Lake O’ the Pines.

Revised I-Plan

Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) worked closely with stakeholders to revise the original I-Plan to continue their efforts in improving water quality.

Adopted TMDL

On April 12, 2006, the Commission adopted the TMDL for Lake O’ the Pines. The Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board approved it on March 23, 2006. EPA approved the TMDL on June 7, 2006, at which time it became part of the state’s Water Quality Management Plan.

Revisions to TMDLs

From time to time, it is necessary to revise TMDLs to account for changing conditions in the watershed. Revisions to the load allocations in TMDLs are made via the state’s Water Quality Management Plan (WQMP), which is updated quarterly.

The WQMP provides projected effluent limits for use in planning and permitting activities under the Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (TPDES). The TCEQ reviews all applications for new and amended permits for conformance with applicable portions of the WQMP, including adopted TMDLs.


Updates are made to account for changing conditions in the watershed, such as new or revised wasteload allocations, permits that have been canceled or have expired, or changed facility names. Updates use the same units of measure as the original TMDL.

  • July 2022, Appendix IV, page 26
  • January 2016, Appendix VIII, pages 21-22
  • October 2015, Appendix IV, pages 12-13
  • January 2009, pages 10-12 
  • October 2009, page 14 

WQMP updates may be viewed in person at the TCEQ Library, Building A, 12100 Park 35 Circle, Austin, Texas. Electronic versions of updates published from 2014 through the present are available on the Texas State Library and Archives Commission website .

For WQMP updates prior to 2014, use the TRAIL Search the TCEQ engine as outlined below. The main search box on the page will only conduct a simple search with no exclusionary parameters and should not be used.

  1. First, limit your search to TCEQ only. Do this via the advanced search feature on the left of the page. To limit a search to TCEQ content, enter “” or “” into the “From the Host” search box.
  2. Refine your search to narrow down results. The other search boxes on the left of the page allow for search terms to be included, excluded, or used in an exact phrase search. Date ranges can be used as well.

Learn more about WQMP updates and opportunities to comment on them.

Contact the TMDL Program

Please email, and mention Lake O’ the Pines in the subject line. Or call us at 512-239-6682.

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