Lake Texoma

Because Life is Better at the Lake

Interview with James Vincent, USACE Environmental Specialist, Tulsa District, on Water Pollution

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“For approximately 70 years, Lake Texoma has provided important flood risk management, hydroelectric, and water supply benefits, as well as being home to two important National Wildlife Refuges (NWR), Hagerman and Tishomingo. Lake Texoma is perhaps best known by millions of north-central Texas and south-central Oklahoma residents for its natural setting and recreational opportunities. Annual recreation visitation at Lake Texoma typically exceeds that of any other USACE lake.” (1)

Me: The list of Lake Texoma flora species is humongous. Hagerman NWR has counted 330 bird species, year-round and migratory, since 1946. Who can count the numbers of Texomaland indigenous animal, fish, and reptile species? Pollution of all types hurts everyone and everything.

What is considered “Water Pollution” on Lake Texoma?

James: Pollution is used to capture a number of different meanings. The Clean Water Act (CWA) provides the foundation of clean water regulations and how and why water is protected. Some of its federal authorities are handed to the state, and in the case of Texas, the counties. Oklahoma handles the CWA on a state level.

The authorities include regulating wastewater from homes and business and how it is treated to permits for modifying streams and rivers. The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) and other agencies establish criteria for what is considered water pollution. It determines if a particular discharge is pollution and if it does or does not need to be regulated.

The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) does not regularly work with the EPA. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regulates wastewater, and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality enforces the CWA in regards to Lake Texoma.

Who are the polluters, man, beast, and/or natural causes?

James: All three are guilty of polluting our water systems. Of course, there are poster children representing serial polluters, but it’s man’s ignorance that usually leads to pollution. There are a few boaters who continue to throw trash out of their boats into the lake. Agricultural waste run-off pollutes through the watersheds that empty into the lake.

Me: I looked for information from the EPA and found a report dated to 2002 which also measured gasoline spillage. Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) is a commonly used gasoline additive and a suspected carcinogen. The EPA monitored MTBE in five Lake Texoma marinas between June 1999 and November 2000 in Lake Texoma. The study noted that those marinas showed a higher level of MTBE during the boating season.

Can you comment on MTBE?

James: The link between MTBE and water pollution was not the purpose for that EPA study. But, the study found an average of 0.0002 milligrams per liter of water in Lake Texoma. That amount of unburned fuel spillage is a long way from being dangerous. The MTBE ratio to water in Lake Texoma is considered a trace amount and is not a cause for concern. The ratio would have to be 51 milligrams to one liter of water to be considered dangerous.

Me: In 2001, a report came out about dissolvable and bioavailable metals in Lake Texoma. Five heavy metals were studied: Arsenic, Cadmium, Chromium, Copper, and Zirconium. Copper was the most bioavailable metal around Lake Texoma marinas. Copper-based anti-fouling paint used on boats is attributed to copper’s presence. Metal concentrations in sediment were much higher than in water.

What is bioavailable metal?

James: The amount of an element that is accessible to an organism. One concern of bioaccumulation is when fish or other wildlife eat contaminated fish. Some lakes have natural occurring mercury. You will see signs around those waters warning people not to eat fish caught in those waters. Concentrations of mercury accumulate in fish tissue.

When you get to a high enough concentration of metals that are available in the water, it affects neurological and nervous systems in fish. We worry about copper and mercury. We don’t have mercury issues in Lake Texoma. Copper is dangerous. Copper sanding metal removers are not supposed to reach the water, but they do.

As awareness increases, one of the USACE’s foremost missions is to help folks identify environmentally unsafe usages of products and procedures that are harmful to natural resources. We want to help business comply with the laws, not punish them. Marina bottom jobs on sailboats are designed to capture marine operations wastewater from entering the lake water. That is not always the case.

As regulations have been created and technology catches up, most folks work with us to comply with federal regulations. Some resist change, but the Corp’s job is to work with businesses to identify problems for the environment without overburdening them financially.

For example, the USACE out grants, or the leasing of Corp property, require the lessees to abide by federal regulations. As a general rule, we find that the lessees embrace our partnership and want to comply with the regulations. We help them to understand the why of the regulations. The Corp helps them to operate with environmentally safe methods. Most of these folks become the best and most heartfelt advocates for protecting our natural resources.

Me: I know fish guts and bones attract certain predators like alligators. I believe it is illegal to leave fish remains on the shore in Oklahoma.

What about people that throw their bottles, cans, food wrappers, and leftover food into the water?

James: These are the aforementioned poster children for littering.

What’s going on with the zebra mussel infestation?

The impression is that typically the zebra mussel population will exponentially increase until it crashes. We end up with a small fraction of the overpopulation. That population might rebound a bit and then stay at that much lower level of population. Zebra mussels are here to stay for the foreseeable future. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department can best answer questions on the zebra mussel infestation. (2) **

What do residents and tourists need to know about water pollution at Lake Texoma?

James: Situational awareness! Everyone has a responsibility to themselves to stay informed. Listen to the news, and evaluate your surroundings. If you have questions, call the appropriate agency to answer them. (See below for contact info)

The most dangerous element about Lake Texoma is driving to the lake. Inherent risks are manageable. Look at the water. If it is a pea-green color or you see surface scum, don’t swim. If you see debris accumulated in particular areas, don’t swim. Woody vegetation that washed in from a flood creates a drowning risk. Swimming in Lake Texoma is a far cry from the clear waters of the Bahamas.

Wear personal flotation devices (life vests). They aren’t comfortable, but wear them and appreciate their value. Preparedness is key. Be a responsible user of a natural resource. The value of a clean environment is the importance of passing the resources on to the next generation.

The intention of the CWA was to get a handle on water pollution in our nation’s public waterways. Many environmental problems have been solved. It is a balance between federal regulations and marine business operations. Now, we’re getting down to microscopic pollution levels.

For Information

U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Tulsa District

351 Corps Road
Denison, TX 75020
(O) 903-465-4990

United States Coast Guard Auxiliary: Flotilla 081-10-01 East Texoma

Based on Lake Texoma, just off US HWY 75/69

OK Texoma Game Wardens

Bryan County

Cody Jones Durant (580) 320-2957
Trey Hale Kingston (580) 320-2956

Love County

Royce Gillham Marietta (580) 276-7193

Marshall County

Billy Bob Walker Madill (580) 320-2959
Linda Powell Madill (580) 320-2951

TX Texoma Game Wardens

Cooke County

Mccuistion, Stormy 817-718-5884

Grayson County

Bailey, Shane 903-305-8841
Blackerby, Daron 903-238-6929
Newman, Bryan 903-271-3571

Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Region 3 - Stephen Lange
Regional Director
(903) 566-1626

TPWD District Fisheries Office

PO Box 1446
Pottsboro, Texas 75076
(903) 786-2389
Dan Bennett, Biologist


* None of the businesses on Corp property actually own the property. They lease it from the USACE.

** “Most clams and mussels are edible, but that does not mean they taste good! Many species and fish and ducks eat zebra mussels, so they are not harmful in that sense. Zebra mussels are so small and do not have much in the way of “meat” inside them; you would have to be pretty hungry to want to eat them. However, because they are filter feeders, they can accumulate pollutants in their tissues that may not be healthy for people to consume. You should contact local public health officials to learn whether it is safe to eat mussels or fish from a specific waterbody.” (3)


1. D. (Ed.). (2017). Lake Texoma Master Plan Bryan, Marshall, Johnston, and Love Counties, Oklahoma, Grayson and Cooke Counties, Texas(Rep.). Fort Worth, TX: Department of the Army Fort Worth District, Corps of Engineers.



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Lake Texoma Weather Forecast



Hi: 60

Sunday Night

Mostly Clear

Lo: 39


Mostly Sunny

Hi: 66

Monday Night


Lo: 43



Hi: 70

Tuesday Night

Partly Cloudy

Lo: 53


Rain Showers Likely

Hi: 68

Wednesday Night

Chance Rain Showers

Lo: 56

Lake Texoma Water Level (last 30 days)

Water Level on 11/17: 618.33 (+1.33)

Lake Texoma Fishing Report from TPWD (Nov. 13)

GOOD. Water stained; 58–62 degrees; 1.45’ high. Striped bass are excellent using slabs, swimbaits, and bait under birds. They will be found feeding on shad. Some anglers are finding success dead sticking. Largemouth bass are good drifting live baits in less than 20ft are producing best results. Crappie are fair on minnows and jigs. Catfish are fair on live sunfish, cut bait, prepped dough balls, and minnows. White bass are good and are biting on live bait.