The San Fernando and Petronila Creeks Watershed Protection Plan (WPP) has been reviewed and accepted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Plan acceptance is dependent on meeting EPA’s guidelines for watershed-based plans. The WPP outlines a strategy to implement management measures that will reduce nonpoint source pollution into Baffin Bay.
Baffin Bay is considered a jewel of the Texas coast, supporting some of the highest commercial and recreational fishery landings in the state and provides critical habitat for numerous bird and wildlife species. San Fernando and Petronila Creeks are two of the three major tributaries to Baffin Bay. Combined, these watersheds cover roughly 1,945 square miles of largely rural land.
San Fernando and Petronila creeks have been considered impaired since 2006 and 2010, respectively, for not meeting the state’s water quality standards for contact recreation due to elevated levels of E. coli bacteria, as well as concerns for elevated nitrates, chlorophyll-a and total phosphorus. In the early 2000s, a large number of fish died which increased local community awareness about the importance of water quality and its impact on Baffin Bay and the surrounding ecosystem.
The Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB), in partnership with the Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI), Nueces River Authority, the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Texas Sea Grant, and the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program worked to engage local stakeholders and lead them in the process to develop the WPP. Stakeholders were engaged through informational meetings, educational programs, and focused discussions regarding the current state of water quality, their concerns for future water resource issues, and what may be done to mitigate these issues.
“This WPP is a direct reflection of the input and dedication provided by local residents and stakeholders. Their time and effort is greatly appreciated and does not go unnoticed,” said Jana Lloyd, project manager at the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board.
During the development of the WPP, general education and outreach were conducted throughout the watershed area. Presentations by project team members were made at numerous events including the Baffin Bay Symposium, Baffin Bay Stakeholder Group, a local Coastal Conservation Association banquet, local county commissioner’s court meetings, and at local soil and water conservation district meetings. Education programs such as the Texas Riparian and Stream Ecosystem Education, Texas Watershed Stewards, and the Urban Riparian and Stream Restoration were offered through partnerships with the TWRI, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and TSSWCB.
“With acceptance of the plan, management measures identified in the WPP are now eligible for funding,” said Lloyd
More information on the San Fernando and Petronila Creeks Watershed Protection Plan is available at https://baffin.twri.tamu.edu or by contacting Jana Lloyd at (254) 773-2250 or jlloydtsswcb.texas.gov.
This effort was funded through a State Nonpoint Source grant from the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board.