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Lake O' the Pines: Implementing a Plan to Protect Aquatic Life

A community project to improve conditions for aquatic life by increasing dissolved oxgen levels in the lake. 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 Description and Goal

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.

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.

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Get Involved

Stakeholders and TCEQ are working to implement the I-Plan with the Northeast Texas Municipal Water DistrictExit the TCEQ 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.

Find out more about what it means to participate in TMDL projects.

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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.

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Execution of I-Plan is being led by the Northeast Texas Municipal Water DistrictExit the TCEQ 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 ReportExit the TCEQ 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.

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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.

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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.

Updates to TMDLs

From time to time, it is necessary to revise TMDLs to account for changing conditions in the watershed, such as new or amended permits, or urban growth, or to correct oversights in the original TMDL report. 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). TCEQ reviews all applications for new and amended permits for conformance with applicable portions of the WQMP, including adopted TMDLs.

Revisions to the TMDL are documented in the approved WQMP updates listed below.

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

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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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Communities Working Together