Copano Bay Watershed

Project Work Plan

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Problem/Need Statement

Data assessed in 2002 showed that Copano Bay was not suitable for harvesting oysters because of elevated bacteria concentrations. In response to these conditions, a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) was initiated by TCEQ to determine the sources of fecal coliform bacteria and the measures necessary to restore the oyster waters use in Copano Bay. In 2004, the tidal segments of the Aransas and Mission Rivers were added to the TMDL as a result of their listing on the 2004 303(d) list for contact recreation. The goal of the TMDL is to determine the load of bacteria that Copano Bay can receive and still support its designated uses and allocate reductions among all the potential sources of bacteria in the watershed.

TCEQ contracted the Center for Research in Water Resources at the University of Texas to compile a model to assess bacteria loading to Copano Bay and load reductions needed to meet the oyster water standard. Preliminary conclusions from this model estimated that bacteria from livestock must be reduced 90% to meet the contact recreation standard in the tidal segment of the Mission River. The model also estimated that a 85% reduction in bacteria from livestock was needed to meet the contact recreation standard in the tidal segment of the Aransas River. Finally, the model predicted that in order to meet the oyster water standard in the Bay, a 15% reduction in bacteria loading from livestock was needed in the Aransas River and a 20% reduction was needed in the Mission River. Additional reductions have been proposed for wastewater treatment plant discharges and urban runoff.

Results of bacterial source tracking performed by Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi indicates that 22% of the bacteria isolates in the Bay corresponded with human sources, 20% from cattle, 35% from horses, 21% from ducks, and 1% from wildlife and gulls.

As a result of these preliminary findings, a number of measures are being taken by the state. First, TCEQ will be funding a watershed coordinator to develop a TMDL - Implementation Plan for the Copano Bay watershed. The TSSWCB is working with the Nueces River Authority to perform additional routine and targeted monitoring to provide better information for the TMDL and Implementation Plan development processes. Finally, TWRI and TCE, with this project, propose to increase awareness of the water quality issues throughout the watershed and provide educational programs and demonstrations for landowners and livestock owners in the watershed on practices to decrease or prevent bacteria from entering waterways.

General Project Description

This project will improve the water quality in Copano Bay and its tributaries by increasing awareness of the water quality issues in the watershed and providing educational programs and demonstrations for landowners and livestock owners in the watershed on practices they can implement to decrease or prevent bacteria from entering waterways. This increase in awareness of water quality issues and BMPs to address them is expected to lead to greater implementation of BMPs in the watershed.

The educational project will cover all counties in the Copano Bay watershed, but will focus primarily on Aransas, Bee, Goliad, Refugio, and San Patricio counties. This project will be coordinated with the ongoing TMDL, upcoming TMDL - Implementation Plan development, and the proposed monitoring activities in order to provide the necessary support to these activities as well as the most up to date information on these activities to landowners as part of the educational programs. This project will also be coordinated with the proposed FY06, CWA ยง319 project, Lone Star Healthy Streams, to deliver educational programs and materials developed by that project to cattlemen in the watershed on measures they can take to reduce bacteria from entering streams.

The TWRI will lead and coordinate this project. The agency will maintain the excellent coordination among federal, state, and local agencies and entities, ensuring effective performance. The TWRI will supply all project deliverables to the TSSWCB project manager. Finally, the TWRI and TCE will cooperate with and involve SWCDs, NRCS, and TSSWCB field representatives in all project activities, as appropriate.

TCE will (1) assemble and evaluate existing information, (2) develop needed educational programs, and (3) deliver educational programs to improve water quality in the watershed. Through TCE's efforts to collect and evaluate existing information, needed data will be assembled to improve the TMDL, help develop the TMDL - Implementation Plan, and develop needed education programs. TCE will assemble and assess existing data on livestock, deer, and feral hog numbers and distribution in the watershed; investigate published bacteria loading coefficients from cattle and other livestock; perform a comparison of the bacteria levels present in Copano Bay to other coastal areas in Texas; and perform an evaluation of the historical bacterial levels in Copano Bay.

Through this project, TCE will also develop educational curriculum for horse owners that delivers current knowledge and training on measures they can take to reduce bacteria runoff.

Finally, TCE will deliver educational programs to landowners throughout the watershed. Result demonstrations, county programs, one-on-one landowner assistance, BMP exhibits, Ag Tours, publications, and other educational meetings will be used to reach the widest array of producers possible in the watershed. Nontraditional audiences, including new and absentee landowners, will also be targeted by many of these programs. Specific educational programs will be targeted to small landowners (Urban Rancher), cattlemen (Lone Star Healthy Streams), horse owners (developed through this project), and the general public.

TWRI and TCE will document project participation at all events and meetings. Selected programs will have a pre and post assessment survey where knowledge learned can be gauged. Follow-up surveys will be used to gauge implementation of BMPs. Overall success will be measured by the number of individual producers the project reaches.

Local media will be used to promote events, and publications will promote various BMPs to landowners and natural resource professionals. This will increase communication, maintaining frequent, periodic technology transfer between natural resource professionals and agricultural landowners. TCE will utilize its already developed resources and delivery system to educate producers on improved management and production techniques. Appropriate materials resulting from this program will be posted to the project website.

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