Riparian and stream ecosystem workshop set for April 24 in Weslaco

WESLACO — The Texas Water Resources Institute’s Texas Riparian and Stream Ecosystem Education Program will host a workshop from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 24 in Weslaco for area residents interested in land and water stewardship in the Arroyo Colorado watershed.

A river barge makes its way up the Arroyo Colorado en route to the Port of Harlingen. A water quality workshop will be held April 24. (Photo courtesy of Texas Water Resources Institute)

A river barge makes its way up the Arroyo Colorado en route to the Port of Harlingen. A land and water stewardship workshop will be held April 24 in Weslaco. (Photo courtesy of Texas Water Resources Institute)

The free workshop is being hosted by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Hidalgo County.

The Arroyo Colorado runs through the center of the Lower Rio Grande Valley from Mission to Arroyo City and eventually flows out into the Lower Laguna Madre. It is the primary source of fresh water to the bay and is essential to the bay’s health, said Jaime Flores, watershed coordinator for the Arroyo Colorado Watershed Partnership.

Nikki Dictson, Texas Water Resources Institute Extension program specialist and coordinator of the program, said the workshop will concentrate on the nature and function of stream and riparian zones, as well as the direct economic impact and benefit of having healthy zones.

A riparian zone is the land area adjacent to the bank of a stream, creek or river, Dictson explained.

“Proper management, protection and restoration of these vital areas directly influence water quality and quantity, stabilize stream banks and improve fish and aquatic habitats, communities and more,” she said.

The morning session will be at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center, 2415 E. U.S. Highway 83 in Weslaco. The afternoon session will include a field site tour along the Arroyo Colorado.

Dictson said workshop topics will include riparian and watershed management principles, water quality, riparian vegetation, hindrances to healthy riparian areas, stream processes, management practices and local resources.

Workshop presentations will be made by representatives of the Texas Water Resources Institute, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Texas Stream Team and AgriLife Extension.

“Riparian education programs like this workshop lead to informed landowners and the public who are more inclined to use practices that improve the management of riparian and stream ecosystems,” Dictson said. “We hope that landowners and managers will incorporate riparian area management into their land stewardship activities and goals.”

“Along with stakeholders better understanding riparian and watershed processes and the benefits of healthy riparian areas, this workshop will give them tools that they can use to resolve degradation and improve water quality in the arroyo,” Dictson said. “The Arroyo Colorado has high bacterial and nutrient levels and low dissolved oxygen levels.”

A catered lunch sponsored by the Lower Rio Grande Valley Storm Water Task Force will be provided. Attendees must RSVP by April 16 to Dictson at 979-458-5915 or n-dictson@tamu.edu, or online at http://texasriparian.org/trainings/upcoming-training-locations/.

Brad Cowan, AgriLife Extension agent for Hidalgo County, said participants will receive a certificate of completion and appropriate continuing education unit certificates at the conclusion of the training.

The workshop offers several types of continuing education units, including three units— two general and one integrated pest management — for Texas Department of Agriculture pesticide license holders. It offers one unit from the Texas Water Resources Institute and six hours for Texas Nutrient Management Planning specialists. The program is acceptable for health, safety and welfare credit from the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners and may also be used for continuing education units for professional engineers.

The riparian education program is managed by the Texas Water Resources Institute, part of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, AgriLife Extension and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University. It is funded through a Clean Water Act grant provided by the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

For more information, contact Dictson or visit texasriparian.org.

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