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Watershed Protection Plan Development for Buck Creek

The Red River Basin includes 29 classified segments and 11 major reservoirs covering 145,169 acres. Buck Creek, also known as Spiller Creek, is a small waterbody situated within the Red River Basin and is located within a subwatershed to the Lower Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River (Segment 0207). This stream segment is located within Ecoregion 27, Central Great Plains. Small streams within this region are typically characterized by widely varying flows and high levels of dissolved salts, generally originating from saltwater seeps and springs. Buck Creek (segment 0207A) is situated within a predominantly rural and agricultural landscape in the panhandle region of Texas.

Land use in the watershed is predominantly row crops and grasslands. During periods of rainfall, which averages approximately 21 inches annually, bacteria (E. coli) 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 waterbody. 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.

The State of Texas requires that water quality in Buck Creek be suitable for fishing, swimming, wading, and a healthy aquatic ecosystem. However, data obtained from periodic water quality monitoring indicate that bacteria levels are sometimes elevated in the creek. Although these data points provide an indicator of a potential water quality problem, the data do not provide conclusive evidence of persistent impairment; rather, it suggests a temporal recurring phenomenon.

Like most states, Texas does not directly monitor pathogens because of the difficulty and expense of measuring them. Instead, it tests for the presence of organisms that indicate the likely presence of pathogens (e.g., E. coli) is typically used as the indicator in the assessment of fresh water. These indicators are used to estimate the relative risk of swimming or other recreation involving direct contact with the water because the probability of becoming ill is greater when the bacteria counts are elevated.

In August 2001, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) proposed developing a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for Buck Creek utilizing the data collected through the Clean Rivers Program. However, because TSSWCB is the lead agency for the State of Texas in abating agricultural nonpoint source pollution, the TSSWCB took the lead in Buck Creek, working closely with the Hall-Childress, Donley County, and Salt Fork SWCDs; Red River Authority (RRA); Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI), and Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Vernon. TSSWCB's first step was to initiate a Clean Water Act §319(h) funded project, "Buck Creek Water Quality Sampling / Assessment," to verify the impairment and assess the levels of E. coli throughout the watershed because the existing dataset was very limited, composed of only 20 fecal coliform samples and 14 E. coli samples over the course of 5 years, and represented only one site. Through that first project, E. coli levels were monitored at 13 sites throughout the watershed and verified the bacterial impairment in the watershed. This project will pick up where TSSWCB Project 03-07 left off and develop a watershed protection plan through a stakeholder driven process.

Project Goals/Objectives: (1) Identify specific sources of the bacteria in Buck Creek, (2) Evaluate potential management alternatives for restoring the waterbody and educate landowners on the best management practices, and (3) Develop a watershed protection plan to restore the waterbody through a stakeholder driven process.

Project Location: The Buck Creek watershed from the Oklahoma State Line in Childress County upstream through Collinsworth County to its headwaters in Donley County.

Project Costs: Federal ($430,181); Non Federal Match ($290,158); Total Project: ($720,339)

Project Participant(s): TSSWCB, Texas Water Resources Institute, Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Service.

Watershed Protection Plan: 06-11

Project Workplan: 06-11

Quality Assurance Project Plan: 06-11

Modeling Workplan: 08-05 

Modeling Quality Assurance Project Plan: 08-05

Modeling Final Report: 08-05 

Surface Water Quality Monitoring Project Workplan: 10-06 

Surface Water Quality Monitoring Quality Assurance Project Plan: 10-06

Surface Water Quality Monitoring Final Report: 10-06

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