Jan. 30 meeting to address water quality of Copano Bay watershed

REFUGIO  —  Residents in the Copano Bay watershed can provide input regarding the future direction of restoring the watershed at a Jan. 30 meeting, according to an official with the Texas Water Resources Institute.

The meeting is set for 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Refugio County Community Center, 305 Swift Street in Refugio, according to Allen Berthold, an institute project manager.

The institute is part of Texas AgriLife Research, the Texas AgriLife Extension Service and the Texas A&M University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The meeting will include a general overview of water quality and bacteria in Copano Bay and its watershed, Berthold said. The Copano Bay watershed includes portions of Bee, Goliad, San Patricio, Refugio and Aransas counties.

“According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s Draft 2010 Texas Water Quality Inventory, Copano Bay is not suitable for harvesting oysters because of elevated bacteria concentrations from various sources,” Berthold said. “In addition, bacteria also impair the tidal segments of the Mission and Aransas rivers.”

This is not the first time the watershed has been under scrutiny, he said.

“The commission initiated the Copano Bay total maximum daily load (TMDL) project to determine the sources of these bacteria and the measures necessary to reduce the bacteria levels in the rivers and bay,” he said. “However, for various reasons we’ll be discussing, activities were put on hold.”

Berthold said he would give an overview at the meeting of previous efforts to address those water quality issues.

Kevin Wagner, the Texas Water Resources Institute’s associate director, will discuss available alternatives to address these impairments, including re-starting the total maximum daily load process or beginning a watershed protection planning process.

“Developing stakeholder-driven plans to restore water quality is a great approach for addressing water quality impairments,” he said. “Not only do stakeholders know what key sources of water quality impairments are, they also have excellent ideas about how to correct impairments.”

Participants will have the opportunity to discuss the next steps for restoring the Copano Bay watershed, Wagner said.

This project is funded by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

For more information about the meeting, contact Berthold at 979-845-2028, or taberthold@ag.tamu.edu.

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