The Yacht Sales Company
Galati Yacht Sales
Quantum Sails
South Texas Yacht Service
Sea Lake Yachts
Blackburn Marine
Marina Del Sol
Seabrook Marina
Laguna Harbor
Sundance Grill

The Environmental Considerations of Storm Surge Mitigation

March 1st, 2017

storm surge The Environmental Considerations of Storm Surge Mitigation

By Scott Jones | Director of Advocacy, Galveston Bay Foundation

Our area has been blessed with Galveston Bay, one the most productive estuaries in the country and the most productive in Texas. From its waters, a full third of the state’s commercial seafood harvests and recreational fish are landed, creating an economic engine of related businesses and quality of life for area citizens. The Bay is renowned for its oysters, shrimp, crab, redfish, flounder and speckled trout. The Bay ecosystem also supports a thriving ecotourism industry and people travel from all over the world to witness the resident and migratory birds that grace our shores.

The Bay area is also the home of hundreds of thousands of people, one of the busiest ports in the nation, one of the biggest petrochemical complexes on the world, wonderful medical centers and, of course, NASA. After the damage and loss of life wrought by Hurricane Ike in 2008, it only makes sense that residents, academic institutions, and government is looking for ways to lower the risk from future hurricane storm surges. The Galveston Bay Foundation supports such efforts, as long as all of the potential benefits and costs are fully known and all environmental impacts are openly discussed and addressed through a robust scientific investigation and review process, and the impacts are ultimately avoided or minimized.

GBF’s mission is to preserve and enhance Galveston Bay as a healthy and productive place for generations to come. Just looking at things from a purely environmental damage standpoint, we recognize that if a major storm surge were to strike our industrial complexes there could be a disastrous release of petroleum and other petrochemicals that could lead to an ecological disaster. So, we agree that there needs to be system(s) in place to prevent that occurrence, whether it’s proper management practices and protective levees at individual plants to levees that protect a whole industrial complex, e.g. the Texas City Levee System or Freeport Levee System, to a larger regional protection system such as the Texas A&M at Galveston’s Ike Dike concept. In short, there are ways to prevent those releases on multiple scales.

However, we are also a part of the local community, living and making our living on or near the Bay, and want to be a positive voice in the discussion on how best to protect not only the environment, but also people and infrastructure. As with mitigating damages to the environment from storm surge, there are also multiple ways to protect people, homes, and businesses, both structurally and non-structurally at a range of scales. The biggest question is just what is it we need to protect from storm surges. It is a fair question to ask if we need to install a coastal spine like Ike Dike the whole length of the Upper Coast to try to protect every shoreline structure from High Island to Freeport when many are already elevated and many others could be brought up to standard. Maybe a coastal spine will end up being the best answer, but all of the alternatives need to be discussed and debated in an open, transparent manner.

Getting back to environmental impacts from structural solutions, we must be aware of unintended yet irreversible damages that can be done to Galveston Bay and all it provides unless we proceed carefully, be it the Ike Dike concept, SSPEED Center’s Houston-Galveston Area Protection System concept, or the Gulf Coast Community Protection and Recovery District’s Phase 3 Recommended Actions. GBF is concerned about both direct and indirect impacts to the Bay and its habitats, but what concerns us most is the proposed massive gate structures at Bolivar Roads and, in the case of the Ike Dike, also San Luis Pass. We should note that SSPEED has also included a middle Bay gate as an option to the Bolivar Roads gate. That gate, too, also raises concerns.

Besides the release of oil and petrochemicals, the only other possible major ecological damage to the Bay related to hurricane surge will be indirect effects from the installation of these gates to water circulation, salinity, sediment transport and the movement of larval and post-larval shrimp, crabs and fish. Environmental lift gates and navigational gates at Bolivar would be open 99.9% of the time, but based on the information we have seen, the passes’ natural width would be permanently reduced by 40-50% to accommodate the footings and other structures that house the gates themselves. Thus, they would always restrict the flow and greatly increase velocities.

At this time, we do not know what effect these gate structures will have on the movement of our critically important recreational and commercial species. If we are not careful, we could lose those fisheries and the businesses that depend upon them, and that would be an unacceptable huge blow from an ecological, economic and quality of life standpoint.

To prevent such negative impacts, GBF is asking is that all possible structural and non-structural options are truly debated and that rigorous environmental research and studies be completed upfront on the structural options that can permanently alter the Bay’s natural processes. We need complete information to make a good decision, because once huge structures are built there is no going back.

Oyster Gardening

January 3rd, 2017

bayou vista oyster Oyster Gardening

Bayou Vista Resident Jeannie Kidwell pulls up her oyster bags with Galveston Bay Foundation’s Haille Carter and Michael Neibuhr. Photo: www.stockyard.com

Residents hang bags from their docks to spawn bi-valves

By Janice Van Dyke Walden

Good things happen over wine, and in this case, it was oyster gardening.  At a Wine Social last Spring, Bayou Vista resident Chris Roper suggested to her neighbors that they collectively cultivate oysters, right from their docks.  It’s a program that Galveston Bay Foundation started in 2010, and has been doing with success in Kemah and San Leon.

Fourteen residents signed up to help, and in June, they gathered at the Roper’s driveway on Blue Heron Drive to create the 5-pound bags.  In all, they assembled 25 bags.  Again, wine was the elixir. “We were bagging with oyster gardening in one hand and wine in the other,” says Chris.

With Galveston Bay’s oyster population at an all time low, beset every two years by silt, storms, low salinities or high salinities, Galveston Bay Foundation is enlisting communities to spawn their growth and shore up subsiding land.

Bayou Vista’s tightknit bay community is a perfect setting to try out the nursery program.  At the intersection of I-45 and Hwy 6 near Galveston, it’s built around a series of residential canals fed by Highland Bayou.  On the community’s southeast boundary lies a wetland fed by West Bay.  Residents hung bags from their docks both on the bayou-canal side and the wetland side to see where the oyster larvae, spat, would take hold starting in June.

•••

Six months later, on this last day of November, it’s time to collect the bags, check for spat, and move the bags to an oyster bar breakwater so they can mature.  We’re at the Roper’s residence, it’s a brilliantly clear afternoon, and the folks from Galveston Bay Foundation are curious to see what’s inside two ice chests at the Roper’s front door.  Hallie Carter, Galveston Bay Foundation’s Habitat Restoration Coordinator, and Michael Neibuhr, Program Technician, open the chests and remove the wet towels covering bags that neighbors have dropped off.  One bag, hung in the canal, shows no spats; the other, hung in the wetland, is full of spats.  Commenting on that neighbor’s results, Chris says, “We’ve had very little influx.  I’m not surprised that our water in the canal was not absolutely full of silt.  It was dark brown.  You couldn’t see anything.”

Unlike Chesapeake Bay, where oyster gardening has been going on for years, it’s not legal to seed oysters here.  In Texas, it has to happen naturally.  So, if communities want to build oyster populations, they have to set their bags in optimum conditions.  This first year at Bayou Vista is a telling example for future sites.

Jeannie Kidwell has just returned from Christmas shopping for her grandkids when she comes to her dock to help pull up her half-year effort.  “I was a Foster Parent,” she says.

Haille and Michael open her bags and the others on the Roper’s dock, sorting the shells, looking for spats.  “I’m amazed at what I see,” says Haille.  She’s finding spat on every 10 oysters.  Some shells are covered with three or more spat.

oyster spat Oyster Gardening

That’s a spat! The oyster gardening program is designed to spawn new oysters each year.

It will take two years for this spat to grow to the legal 3-inch-size oyster for harvesting.  But these will never be harvested.  Today they’re going into restricted waters off Galveston Bay Foundation’s 449-acre Sweetwater Preserve.  There, the oysters will build a breakwater for land quickly eroding at a rate of two feet each year.  The waters at the edge of this Galveston Island preserve connect to Bayou Vista’s wetland nursery.  “When we transport spat, we have to keep them in the same sub-bay system,” says Haille.  And, in this case, it’s West Bay.

The evening is closing in when we arrive at the Sweetwater Preserve to deposit the bags.  Near the water is a tall pile of oyster shells, a curing site for those collected from nearby restaurants.  So far, six Bay Area restaurants participate in the shell-recycling program.  They’ve been given 32-gallon collection bins that Galveston Bay Foundation retrieves and brings to the curing site on a weekly basis.  Michael led that effort for most of last year. “I’d visit Tookie’s the most, about three times a week,” he says.

Shells at the curing site will go into the 5-pound bags for the gardening program.  They also make up the 35-pound bags that form this and other breakwaters.  Since 2011, the program has collected 570 tons of shells.

As they set the bags in the reef, Haille talks about how the program will expand to Galveston Island in the next year.  “We‘ll partner with Gaidos and Cajun Greek, and continue our partnership with Texas A&M-Galveston with students picking up shells at those recycling sites and taking them to the curing sites.”

Oyster gardening is easy for families to do with their kids, and it’s a good way for kids to connect to their eco-system.  To get involved, contact:

Emily Ford | eford@galvbay.org

www.galvbay.org/get-involved/volunteer

Ladies Casting for Conservation Tournament

August 31st, 2016

gbftrout Ladies Casting for Conservation Tournament

Team Gulf Coast Mariner with the winning stringer. Colie Blumenshine, from left, Debbie Salisbury, Kelly Groce and Capt. Bob Drisgill.

July 23, 2016 at Stingaree Marina, Crystal Beach, Texas
kellytrout Ladies Casting for Conservation Tournament

Gulf Coast Mariner’s Kelly Groce with a 5.9lb East Bay trout.

By Kelly Groce

When the Gulf Coast Mariners Team – Debbie Salisbury, Colie Blumenshine, and myself, Kelly Groce – hit the water early that July morning on a mission to find and catch big trout, little did we know what lay ahead in the Galveston Bay Foundation Tournament.

Our guide, Capt. Bob “Mangus” Drisgill of Mangus II Charters, took us to our first spot over a reef. After a few minutes, I hooked on to what felt like a decent trout. The fish was pulling drag and giving a fun fight. We got it to the boat and it was a nice 23-inch trout. A few more 18-20 inch trout were caught at a variety of other locations.

manguscolie

Colie Blumenshine and Capt. Bob ‘Mangus’ Drisgill with a nice speck.

The weather was beautiful and there was barely any wind. We went to our last spot of the day and immediately hooked on. Captain Bob got on a nice drift over reef, which produced great for us. I ended up reeling in my personal best trout, which was 25 inches and 5.9 pounds! Our ice chest looked like it was in good shape, so it was time to hit the weigh in. Once we arrived at Stingaree Marina, we weighed in our three best trout, which totaled 16.20 pounds.

Thanks to Captain Bob and the fish gods, the Gulf Coast Mariners won 1st place Guided Heaviest Stringer. You couldn’t wipe the smiles off of our team’s faces after a fun filled day of Captain Bob’s jokes, catching beautiful Galveston Bay speckled trout, and winning 1st place in the tournament.

Thanks to the 60 participants and 22 teams, this year’s Ladies Casting for Conservation Tournament raised over $35,000. The proceeds will support the Galveston Bay Foundation and help preserve and protect Galveston Bay. Thanks to the Galveston Bay Foundation for putting on such an awesome tournament and for the beautiful plaque. This tournament was a blast and we can’t wait to participate next year. Tight lines!

Galveston Bay Foundation and HARC release 2016 report card for Galveston Bay

August 12th, 2016

gbaymap Galveston Bay Foundation and HARC release 2016 report card for Galveston Bay

Under the ‘find your watershed’ tab, you can enter in your city or zip code to find information about the bay, river or bayou in your community.

galvbayfound Galveston Bay Foundation and HARC release 2016 report card for Galveston BayThe Galveston Bay Foundation, partnered with the Houston Advanced Research Center, has released the 2016 report card for Galveston Bay. The grade is a C, the same as last year, after averaging the six categories of Water QualityPollution Events & Sources, Wildlife, Habitat, Human Health Risks and Coastal Change. Some categories improved from last year, but some got worse.

View the full report card here and see what you can do to help the health of Galveston Bay, the 7th largest estuary in the United States and the body of water where many Texas residents work, live and play.

Galveston Bay Foundation’s Ladies Casting for Conservation 2016

August 10th, 2016

GBF Thank You Galveston Bay Foundations Ladies Casting for Conservation 2016

The Galveston Bay Foundation sent us this nice thank you collage for participating in the Ladies Casting for Conservation Fishing Tournament. Our team had a great time, got 1st place heaviest stringer, and overall $35,000 was raised to help our bay. We suggest any lady anglers out there sign up for this tournament next year, it was a blast!

The Importance of Galveston Sea Grass

August 8th, 2016

27troutgrass The Importance of Galveston Sea Grass

This 27-inch trout came from a mix of widgeon and shoal grass.

By Capt. Steve Soule

www.theshallowist.com

Galveston Bay doesn’t have a large amount of sea grass. Prior to 2008 we had very little at all, with the exception of Christmas Bay and three areas where grass had been planted by the Galveston Bay Foundation during the late 1990s.

Galveston’s West Bay did historically have sea grasses, like much of the Texas coastline, but they had long since been wiped out. During the 1990s, when I moved to the Galveston area and started fishing, Christmas Bay was the only area where I could consistently find sea grass beds to fish. Though, there were years when certain coves in West Galveston would grow sea grass, it was primarily widgeon grass. It might grow well one year and then not be seen in the area for several years. Back then, I didn’t really realize why this grass was here some years and not others. I did however always know the benefit of the sea grasses and the incredible habitat that it provides for sea life.

Enter the Galveston Bay Foundation and their efforts to restore the bay in the mid to late 90s. They had already been involved in some shoreline restoration projects where they would replant shoreline grasses (Spartina). They also planted sea grass in three areas along the south shoreline of West Bay at Dana Cove, behind Galveston Island State Park, Snake Island Cove and at San Luis Pass behind the old water treatment plant. All of these areas still grow grass well, with Dana and Snake Island probably being the most prolific, and these grasses still thrive today. The type of sea grass that was planted at these areas is shoal grass

These patches of planted grass were a fantastic improvement for the bay. Prior to these plantings, there was only sporadic grass growth along the north shore spoils, primarily widgeon grass. Due to these grass projects and an interesting set of recurring circumstances, the shorelines of West Bay have been transformed.

All of us who fish are well aware of how breezy Galveston can be during spring with wind directions predominantly from the south or southeast. There are many days when 15-25 mile per hour winds are the norm. Stepping back and taking a look at the big picture, and remembering the three areas where grass was planted and thriving, add some powerful south winds and a seeding period in late spring, and the result is spotty grass growth along north shore spoils. The first area that I remember seeing it was west of Karankawa cut. This long flat filled in with grass rather quickly while other areas took slightly longer to grow. Next was the stretch from Greens Cut to Karankawa Cut. Over the years since, this grass has spread and now covers nearly every inch of the West Bay spoils.

Types of Galveston Sea Grass

We don’t experience the same level of grass growth every year, nor do we have the same grasses appearing. We have high and low salinity years, and as it turns out, some grasses are more adept at growing during each of these types of years.

spartina The Importance of Galveston Sea Grass

Spartina grass

Spartina grass (Spartina alterniflora) along our shorelines grow in both high and low salinity and don’t seem to be effected much by annual changes.

Shoal grass

Shoal grass.© Hans Hillewaert

Shoal grass (Halodule wrightii) grows well during higher salinity years and has some interesting characteristics. This species, native along nearly all of the Texas Coast, is a straight bladed grass with small fibers along its blades. These fibers do an amazing job of filtering small particulate matter from the water column. This is the grass that gives us very clear water by trapping suspended silt in the water column so common in the Galveston area.

Widgeon grass

Widgeon grass

Widgeon grass (Ruppia maritima), grows prolifically in lower salinities and it is very different when compared to shoal grass. Widgeon grass has multiple offshoots along the length of the plant stem, grows rapidly during low salinity periods and grows much taller than shoal grass. This grass will continue to grow rapidly during spring and will often grow to the water’s surface. Interestingly, as we often experience high tides in spring in conjunction with higher south winds, widgeon grass will grow to the level of the water during these high tides. This sounds great, and as it benefits the environment, it is. Due to the multiple offshoots, greater height and the density of its growth, this grass makes for an exceptional cover structure for all of the small prey animals that inhabit these areas, and the predators that follow them.

Not that it makes much difference, nor can we change what mother nature sends our way in terms of weather, but it will help you to understand when and where these grasses grow and how they will impact the water where they are present. Shoal grass is an incredible water filter and provides very good cover and habitat for small fish, crabs and shrimp that redfish and trout frequently feed upon.

Widgeon grass on the other hand, does not tend to filter the water column nearly to the degree that shoal grass will. Widgeon grass will definitely grow much thicker and provide a great habitat for both prey and predator, but will not give us the clarity of water that shoal grass provides.

For those who have been fishing the grassy areas over the past few years, you are quite aware that 2015 and now 2016 have not been great water quality years. The underlying case has been low salinity. Though we do have some areas with shoal grass, for the most part the bay floor has been taken over by widgeon grass and will stay that way until late summer when salinities are higher. Unfortunately, this is in my experience typically too late for the shoal grass to recover and grow as the early season growth of the widgeon will choke out and prevent photosynthesis.

One last note about sea grasses and Galveston Bay, and well the entire Texas Coast for that matter. Don’t quote me on the exact timing, but two-to-three years ago, Texas Parks and Wildlife department passed a law prohibiting the intentional destruction of sea grasses. These grasses are a valuable and limited part of the overall habitat, providing cover structure for numerous animals both predatory and prey. This resource can be damaged and frequently is by boaters either unaware or not concerned. Given the rate of growth and expansion of the areas with sea grasses over the past ten years, we can only hope to see a continuation of this trend. With some cautious stewardship from all who operate boats in these areas, this may be a trend that continues and provides excellent habitat and fishing for many years to come.

Galveston Bay Bacteria After the Storms

July 5th, 2016

gbf bacteria Galveston Bay Bacteria After the Storms

David Bulliner, GBF’s Volunteer Lab Assistant, processes a sample to measure the bacteria concentration present.

Galveston Bay Foundation Water Quality Monitors Find High Concentrations of Galveston Bay Bacteria After Floods.

By Galveston Bay Foundation Staff

Over the past few months, there has been more rain than usual in the Houston-Galveston area – more than 13 inches above average, to be exact.

And as water from heavy rainfalls sweeps through the streets, urban runoff gets carried along and ends up in Galveston Bay.

“During major storm events, water will run down the streets taking anything left on the ground including sources of bacteria like pet waste, fertilizers, and even sewage,” Sarah Gossett, Galveston Bay Foundation Water Quality Volunteer Coordinator said.

She said stormwater management systems are designed to move water into waterways as quickly as possible, meaning most of our stormwater doesn’t pass through natural vegetative barriers that would help absorb water and filter out pollution.  Instead, it tends to increase the bacteria entering our waterways and impacts the saltiness of our Bay.

Gossett said major influxes of rain also cause sewer overflows from damaged or clogged sewage pipes.

Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF), a local nonprofit organization that strives to preserve and protect Galveston Bay, oversees a team of 47 volunteer water quality monitors who collect samples from 48 sites around Galveston Bay. The spikes in bacteria concentrations their samples have found after recent storms have been significant. Many sites sampled had higher than normal bacteria concentrations, some three times or more than EPA recreation standards for swimming.

“While some sites see higher concentrations of bacteria more frequently than others, every location is at risk after a major rain,” Gossett said.

GBF’s 2015 Report Card evaluates the state of the Bay and gave recreational safety an “A” grade for the Bay. Galveston Bay is generally safe to swim in, though GBF recommends avoiding swimming along the shoreline after a heavy rainfall.

“Our main concern is for the safety of people, and the Bay of course,” said Dave Bulliner, GBF Volunteer Lab Technician.

Bulliner said it was typical for bacteria concentrations to be highest during the summer. When he finds an abnormally high concentration of bacteria, he contacts Gossett who has a volunteer collect another sample from that location. If bacteria levels remain high, Gossett notifies the proper decision-makers to recommend preventative measures for the future. To learn more about the current bacteria levels around Galveston Bay, visit www.galvbay.org/citizenscience.

Another water quality parameter that has been impacted by the recent heavy rainfalls is the salinity, or saltiness, of Galveston Bay has decreased dramatically.

“Salinity is everything to the Bay,“ said Paula Paciorek, GBF’s Water Resources Coordinator. “If salinity levels are too low or too high, we can immediately observe a decline in oyster populations and an increase in their predators and diseases, which brings the whole Bay off balance.”

pump dump map Galveston Bay Bacteria After the Storms

How you can reduce runoff in our waterways:

Join GBF’s Water Quality Monitoring Team

Be informed about water quality issues in your area. To learn more about the water quality or to help protect the water quality in Galveston Bay, visit www.galvbay.org/watermonitors.

Pump Don’t Dump

If you have a head on board your boat, make sure that you and your fellow boaters pump out your sewage instead of dumping it into the water. Visit www.pumpdontdump.org to learn more and find the nearest pump-out station.

Report Pollution

Report any pollution you see to the Galveston Bay Action Network, an online pollution reporting service provided by the Galveston Bay Foundation. Reports are automatically sent to the proper authority for clean-up. Visit www.galvbay.org/GBAN to report pollution.

Cease the Grease

Be wary of what you put down the drain. Cooking fats, oils and grease can clog pipes and cause sanitary sewer overflows. Instead, recycle or throw out your cooking grease. Visit www.ceasethegrease.net to learn more.

Water-Conscious Landscaping

Install a Rain Barrel, plant with native plants, and create your very own rain garden. Rain barrels can be placed at downspouts or downpours from the roof in order to reduce runoff and flooding, help conserve freshwater and reduce pollution from reaching Galveston Bay. Visit www.galvbay.org/rainbarrel for more information.