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Assessment of Contact Recreation Use Impairments and Watershed Planning for Big Cypress Creek and Tributaries

Project Goals and Objectives:  Big Cypress Creek (and its tributaries) are located in the Cypress Creek Basin. The headwaters of Big Cypress Creek originate in southeast Hopkins County. From there, Big Cypress Creek flows east into Lake Cypress Springs and then into Lake Bob Sandlin in Franklin County. After leaving Lake Bob Sandlin, Big Cypress Creek, which forms the county line between Titus and Camp Counties, flows southeast to Lake O' the Pines and then finally to Caddo Lake before entering Louisiana. The watershed is characterized by gently rolling wooded hills and broad, frequently flooded, densely vegetated stream bottoms. Post oak savannah is predominant in the western portion of the basin, while pineywoods are common in the eastern portion.

The Big Cypress Creek watershed, between Lake Bob Sandlin and Lake O' the Pines, encompasses approximately 445 square miles in Camp, Morris, Titus and Upshur Counties. In 1996, Big Cypress Creek (Segment 0404) was placed on the Texas 303(d) List for having bacteria levels that exceed water quality standards. In 2000, Tankersley Creek (Segment 0404B) was placed on the 303(d) List for bacteria, and in 2006, Hart Creek (Segment 0404C) was placed on the 303(d) List for bacteria. Other tributaries to Big Cypress Creek are not currently impaired for bacteria, but they are likely contributing some degree of bacteria loading to the impaired reaches of Big Cypress Creek.

Land use in the watershed is predominantly cropland and pasture (about 48%) and forest (about 40%). During periods of rainfall, which averages approximately 46 inches annually, bacteria originating from aquatic birds and mammals, livestock, inadequately treated sewage, and/or failing septic systems may be washed into the streams and have the potential to impede recreational use of the waterbodies. Bacterial indicators, such as E. coli, may remain in the streams at levels exceeding established criteria and can be measured well after a rain event has occurred. These microorganisms are normally found in wastes of warm-blooded animals and are generally not harmful to human health, but may indicate the presence of pathogens that can cause disease.

Lake O' the Pines and other waterbodies in its watershed are extremely important to the surrounding region. Lake O' the Pines provides drinking water for 7 cities and towns, numerous rural water districts, and several steel manufacturing and electric generating companies. In addition, the City of Longview (population 70,000) will be using the lake as a drinking water source in the near future. The lake is an important resource to the timber industry and to agricultural enterprises such as the poultry industry, dairies, cow/calf operations, and for irrigation. Recreation and tourism are significant sources of income for residents of the watershed. Boating and fishing for trophy bass, catfish, and crappie lure large numbers of recreational users to the watershed each year.

Major revisions to the Texas Surface Water Quality Standards are being drafted by TCEQ, including the establishment of numeric nutrient criteria for reservoirs and modifications to contact recreation use and bacteria criteria. As part of this process, TCEQ is developing procedures for conducting recreational Use Attainability Analyses (UAAs). In order for a new category of recreational use or a different bacteria water quality standard to be applied to a waterbody, a recreational UAA will need to be conducted. TCEQ and TSSWCB have collaborated on developing a list of priority waterbodies for collecting information needed for recreational UAAs. Segments in this project's study area are on that list.

In accordance with the Memorandum of Agreement Between the TCEQ and the TSSWCB Regarding TMDLs, Implementation Plans, and Watershed Protection Plans, the TSSWCB has agreed to take the lead role in addressing the bacteria impairments in the study area. Through this and associated projects, the TSSWCB and NETMWD will work with local stakeholders to progress through the data collection and analysis components of the first two tiers of the Task Force recommended three-tier approach. The goal is to remove the waterbodies in the study area from the 303(d) List; however, the mechanism is not predetermined. At the end of this two-year assessment project, possible outcomes include: 1) waterbodies are achieving current water quality standards, 2) waterbodies are achieving revised water quality standards, based on TCEQ triennial review process, 3) adequate data exists to support a UAA to change water quality standards, 4) adequate data exists to develop a Watershed Protection Plan, or 5) adequate data exists to develop a TMDL and I-Plan for TCEQ adoption.

Project Location:  Big Cypress Creek and Tributaries (Hart and Tankersley Creeks) between Lake O' the Pines and Lake Bob Sandlin

Project Costs: Federal $0; State $320,100; Cooperator Match $0; Total Project $320,100

Project Participant(s): TSSWCB, Northeast Texas Municipal Water District, Texas AgriLife and area SWCDs

Project Workplan: 09-54

Quality Assurance Project Plan: 09-54 

Model Support and Bacterial Source Tracking For Big Cypress Creek Bacteria Assessment:

To provide stakeholders and agencies with sufficient information to address bacteria impairments on Big Cypress Creek and tributaries (Hart and Tankersley Creeks) between Lake O’ the Pines and Lake Bob Sandlin through verification of use attainment, revision of water quality standards and/or designated uses, or development of a WPP or TMDL by 1) conducting bacterial source tracking, 2) developing a comprehensive GIS inventory and conducting a watershed source survey, and 3) analyzing data using Load Duration Curves and spatially explicit modeling.

Project Workplan: 09-55

Quality Assurance Project Plan: 09-55

Project Website:

"Protecting and Enhancing Natural Resources since 1939."

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