VERNON – A 10-year effort by Texas A&M AgriLife Research on the Buck Creek watershed will end this month and be recognized with a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Texas Environmental Excellence Award for agriculture in May.
Buck Creek was listed as being impaired by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality due to elevated bacteria levels in 2000 after it was determined the stream did not meet all Texas Surface Water Quality Standards, according to Phyllis Dyer, AgriLife Research’s Buck Creek watershed coordinator.
But it wasn’t until 2003 that Dr. John Sij, former AgriLife Research agronomist, stepped up to see if there was a way for researchers to help determine the problem and find answers.
In 2004, the Texas Water Resources Institute Buck Creek Watershed Partnership was funded by the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board through federal Clean Water Act 319 funds by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Dyer said.
That is when Dyer was hired to begin water quality monitoring in the creek. Nine years later, all the water quality samples have been taken, data has been analyzed and the creek has been removed from the list of impaired water bodies, she said.
The Buck Creek team will receive their award at a banquet May 1 during the Environmental Trade Fair and Conference in Austin. The Texas Environmental Excellence Awards celebrate the efforts of citizens, communities, businesses and organizations to preserve and protect the Texas environment and are presented annually to spotlight the state’s highest achievements in nine different categories.
Dyer said this truly was a partnership effort. Over time, landowners became involved and voluntarily made changes in their land management practices.
The changes were due to research efforts, education and workshops provided by AgriLife Research, the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Texas Water Resources Institute, Red River Authority, the Texas Department of Wildlife, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and local soil and water conservation districts that together form the Buck Creek Watershed Partnership, she said.
Together the group identified issues, including specific sources of bacteria, and alternatives were evaluated for restoring the creek, said Dr. Paul DeLaune, AgriLife Research environmental soil scientist at Vernon. This was the framework for a watershed protection plan that was developed and recently finalized to provide a guideline to maintain a healthy watershed in the future.
Located in the sub-watershed of the Lower Prairie Dog Fork of the Red River, Buck Creek is an unclassified stream that originates in Donley County near Hedley and runs east-southeast through Collingsworth and Childress counties before entering the southwestern corner of Harmon County, Okla., where it empties into the Red River.
For more information on the efforts to restore water quality in Buck Creek and to read the complete water quality success story from EPA, visit http://buckcreek.tamu.edu .