The project, run by Texas AgriLife Entomologist Dr. Jerry Michels, began in 2004. Back then, the salt cedar trees covering 25,000 acres of land were absorbing 57 billion gallons of water each year. On top of that, Lake Meredith's water levels had already begun to drop. That trend has continued on through today. Though the lake has risen two feet after the recent moisture, its levels are still dangerously low.
"In the 80s it got down in the 60s, to 65 feet or so," Canadian River Municipal Water Authority General Manager Kent Satterwhite said. "That's the worst it had been before this. So, this is way worse than that. In '99, we were at 96 feet. So, from 96 to 30 feet, man, we've dropped a bunch."
Over the years, the 25,000 acres of land have been sprayed via helicopter, killing off many of the nuisance plants. Now, beetles are doing the rest of the work, and their eating habits may just be what it takes to help the lake.
"CRMWA is just a beneficiary of the project," Satterwhite said. "And they've been doing it for several years. They had a hard time finding a specific species that would adapt to this climate, but in the last couple of years they think they found some and there's been some damage to the salt cedars- quite a bit of damage- and we're really encouraged to do this."
Satterwhite added the salt cedar trees used about twice as much water as the eleven cities that are members of CRMWA. But if the beetles keep up the good work, this problem might soon come to an end. Now, if only the Panhandle can get more rain.