Clean Coast Texas (CCT) representatives met with members of Friends of Little Bay, elected officials, and members of the public Wednesday, Aug. 18 to provide an update about the CCT program, and what it is currently doing in regard to its Little Bay (LB) Restoration Initiative work.

(Note: The Aransas County Navigation District, Aransas County, City of Rockport, and Town of Fulton all signed a letter supporting the LB Restoration Initiative, and approved a Memorandum of Understanding – MOU - which requires no funding obligations from the entities. The letter of support demonstrated the local entities’ desire to jointly address LB’s issues. The MOU includes CCT, demonstrating its commitment to the LB Restoration Initiative. The CCT has taken on the LB Restoration Initiative as its first major project.)

Nick Dornak, with the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University, said, “I’ve done community outreach programs for many years. I couldn’t be happier with how people come together on Little Bay.”

CCT is a program of the Texas General Land Office (GLO). CCT Program partners include the GLO, the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, Texas Community Watershed partners, Texas Sea Grant, and Doucet and Associates (consulting engineers).

It was noted CCT addresses non-point source pollution (stormwater runoff).

The state’s population is expected to grow about 70% in the next 50 years, and water quality and quantity are important issues that need to be addressed.

CCT has many resources at its disposal, including technical support for communities, as well as access to grant money.

Doucet and Associates’ Tom Hegemier, PE, CFM, introduced the 3rd edition of Guidance for Sustainable Stormwater Drainage on the Texas Coast manual. Manual highlights include guidance for sustainable/resilient designs, stormwater practices design criteria, floodplain management, construction erosion controls, retrofits (treating existing development), and examples of development criteria/codes.

Hegemier noted after Rockport Beach and Key Allegro were developed there remained only two connections between LB and Aransas Bay (AB). He said circulation in LB isn’t what it was prior to those two developments.

He said 2,300 acres of highly urbanized land drains into LB, plus effluent from the Rockport’s wastewater treatment plant that isn’t reused.

Hegemier outlined the many studies that have been done and/or are currently underway regarding LB’s water quality/circulation, including Bacterial Source Tracking LB (samples collected over a period of time from seven stations). That study suggested directives to lessen bacteria levels in LB, including diverting effluent from Tule Lake, pet waste management, prohibiting gull feeding, and limiting improper food disposal.

Texas Beach Watch collected 75,000 water samples between 2009-20 at 66 beaches. Aransas Bay occasionally exceeded EPA recreational limits. The study’s conclusions are that bayside sites generally have higher bacterial levels, which increase with time, population, and sea level. Recommendations included further investigation of sources, management of septic and wastewater systems, and stormwater runoff management.

Seagrass Habitat Monitoring included taking LB water samples at 10 sites for two years, and comparing LB to AB.

It was found LB has low salinity and seagrasses need drift currents, which would be improved with better connection to AB.

When comparing the two bays, it was found salinity and turbidity is higher in AB, and LB is susceptible to algal blooms and nutrient inputs.

The Tule Creek Water Quality Protection Plan was started in 2009, and addressed discharge, sedimentation, and decline in water quality.

Successes from that plan included the removal of invasive species in 2011, the stabilization of creek banks, the expansion of a sediment trap pond that removed 71% of sediments, and water quality education.

A summary of the collective LB studies showed:

• Light conditions could support seagrass

• Nutrient levels are high

• Salinity is lower in AB

• There is limited connectivity with the Gulf, limited grass seed bank, and reduced flushing

• Bacteria levels are moderate compared to other areas

Hegemier then talked about the seagrass story in Tampa Bay.

He said that body of water had 40,000 acres of seagrass in the 1950s, prior to the area’s rapid growth and unregulated nutrient discharge.

Thirty years later half of the seagrass was gone.

“They invested almost a half billion dollars in 30 years and the (seagrass levels have been restored),” said Hegemier.

He said the problems LB faces are reversible.

Areas that can be addressed include long-term thinking, expanding Tule Lake, enhanced effluent management (diversion, reuse), pet waste reduction, food waste management, seagrass restoration, adding oyster reefs, new development runoff, and retrofitting existing developments.

The CCT Program is looking to aid local officials in adopting a Guidance for Sustainable Design Manual to manage new development runoff, help develop comprehensive plans, provide education and outreach programs, review existing studies, help communities apply for grants and other funds, and supporting the GLO to obtain federal approval for the program.

Hegemier said CCT has applied for a $1.6 million grant. If awarded, the following work will be performed:

• Retrofit design plans and construction of four projects

• Design of Tule Creek regional water quality retrofit/wastewater management diversion/reuse

• Community comprehensive plans

• Community engagement and education outreach

CCT should learn by October if the grant is awarded.

ACND Chairman Malcolm Dieckow asked how long it will take before any construction occurs.

“It depends on money,” said Hegemier. “If the grant is received, the four smaller projects will demonstrate need.”

Dornak said the first grant will include funds for engineering work for bigger projects, noting that each grant received will include “pre-work” to get future grants.

Dornak and Hegemier both said it’s important for local government entities to cohesively address new construction.

“It’s really important to manage new development,” said Hegemier.

Dornak said Aransas County and Rockport staffs have been very helpful, meeting with CCT representatives and providing valuable information and assets.

“This (LB Restoration Initiative) is a pilot program (for CCT),” said Dornak. “We really want to show what it is this can do.”

Dieckow closed the meeting saying, “It took a long time for LB to get where it is today, and it will take a while to get it back.”

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