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Education Program for Improved Water Quality in Copano Bay

Data assessed in 2002 showed that Copano Bay was not suitable for harvesting oysters because of elevated bacteria concentrations. In response to these conditions, a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) was initiated by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to determine the sources of fecal coliform bacteria and the measures necessary to restore the oyster waters use in Copano Bay. In 2004, the tidal segments of the Aransas and Mission Rivers were added to the TMDL as a result of their listing on the 2004 303(d) list for contact recreation. The goal of the TMDL is to determine the load of bacteria that Copano Bay can receive and still support its designated uses and allocate reductions among all the potential sources of bacteria in the watershed.

This project will improve the water quality in Copano Bay and its tributaries (Figure 1) by increasing awareness of the water quality issues in the watershed and providing educational programs and demonstrations for landowners and livestock owners in the watershed on practices they can implement to decrease or prevent bacteria from entering waterways. This increase in awareness of water quality issues and best management practices (BMPs) to address them is expected to lead to greater implementation of BMPs in the watershed.

The educational project will cover all counties in the Copano Bay watershed, but will focus primarily on Aransas, Bee, Goliad, Refugio, and San Patricio counties. This project will be coordinated with the ongoing TMDL, upcoming TMDL - Implementation Plan development, and the proposed monitoring activities in order to provide the necessary support to these activities as well as the most up to date information on these activities to landowners as part of the educational programs. This project will also be coordinated with the proposed FY06, CWA §319 project, Lone Star Healthy Streams, to deliver educational programs and materials developed by that project to cattlemen in the watershed on measures they can take to reduce bacteria from entering streams.

The Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) will lead and coordinate this project. The agency will maintain the excellent coordination among federal, state, and local agencies and entities, ensuring effective performance. The TWRI will supply all project deliverables to the TSSWCB project manager. Finally, the TWRI and Texas AgriLife Extension Service (TAES) will cooperate with and involve Soil and Water Conservations Districts (SWCDs), Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), and Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB) field representatives in all project activities, as appropriate.

TAES will (1) assemble and evaluate existing information, (2) develop needed educational programs, and (3) deliver educational programs to improve water quality in the watershed. Through TAES's efforts to collect and evaluate existing information, needed data will be assembled to improve the TMDL, help develop the TMDL - Implementation Plan, and develop needed education programs. TAES will assemble and assess existing data on livestock, deer, and feral hog numbers and distribution in the watershed; investigate published bacteria loading coefficients from cattle and other livestock; perform a comparison of the bacteria levels present in Copano Bay to other coastal areas in Texas; and perform an evaluation of the historical bacterial levels in Copano Bay.

Through this project, TAES will also develop educational curriculum for horse owners that delivers current knowledge and training on measures they can take to reduce bacteria runoff.

Finally, TAES will deliver educational programs to landowners throughout the watershed. Result demonstrations, county programs, one-on-one landowner assistance, best management practices (BMPs) exhibits, Ag Tours, publications, and other educational meetings will be used to reach the widest array of producers possible in the watershed. Nontraditional audiences, including new and absentee landowners, will also be targeted by many of these programs. Specific educational programs will be targeted to small landowners (Urban Rancher), cattlemen (Lone Star Healthy Streams), horse owners (developed through this project), and the general public.

TWRI and TAES will document project participation at all events and meetings. Selected programs will have a pre and post assessment survey where knowledge learned can be gauged. Follow-up surveys will be used to gauge implementation of BMPs. Overall success will be measured by the number of individual producers the project reaches.

Local media will be used to promote events, and publications will promote various BMPs to landowners and natural resource professionals. This will increase communication, maintaining frequent, periodic technology transfer between natural resource professionals and agricultural landowners. TAES will utilize its already developed resources and delivery system to educate producers on improved management and production techniques. Appropriate materials resulting from this program will be posted to the project website.

Project Goals/Objectives: The overall goal of this project is to improve the water quality in Copano Bay and its tributaries by increasing awareness of the water quality issues throughout the watershed and providing education and demonstrations for landowners and livestock owners in the watershed on practices to decrease or prevent bacteria from entering waterways.

Project Location: Copano Bay Watershed

Project Costs: Federal ($211,793); Non Federal Match ($163,894); Total Project: ($375,687)

Project Participant(s): TSSWCB, Texas Water Resources Institute, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, and Welder Wildlife Refuge 

Project Workplan: 06-08

Guide to Good Horsekeeping: 06-08

Task 2 Report: 06-08

Final Report: 06-08

"Protecting and Enhancing Natural Resources since 1939."

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