New flow standards are being considered for the Trinity and San Jacinto Rivers that could deprive Galveston Bay oysters of adequate freshwater. The public comment period on these changes to is open until December 20 with a public hearing scheduled for December 16. The draft item is titled “SB3/HB3 Environmental Flow Standards”
Texas oysters need your help!
Comment by email to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality You must select “SB3/HB3” as the subject of your message. Just write: “We need more fresh water for the oysters!” or something to that effect.
Galveston Bay at Risk
The shallow waters covering Galveston Bay’s 600 square miles have historically produced as much as 80% of the oysters harvested in the state. The area’s blue crab and shrimp harvests are also some of the largest in Texas. Galveston Bay is loved by recreational anglers and its shallow waters are home to Atlantic croaker, flounder, spotted seatrout, and many other species of fish. Nearly three hundred different kinds of birds have been seen in the area around Galveston Bay.
This biological diversity is due in large part to the freshwater flowing into Galveston Bay from the Trinity and San Jacinto Rivers. This mix of fresh and saltwater is critical for the reproduction of organisms such as shrimp, crabs and oysters. Freshwater from the rivers also brings sediment to the bay, which builds up habitats such as saltwater marshes and the barrier islands. Projections of future water use, such as the National Wildlife Federation’s 2004 report Bays in Peril, indicate that Galveston Bay could end up deprived of adequate freshwater, particularly during dry years.
The current proposal has several shortcomings for Galveston Bay. Instead of setting seasonal targets based on natural rain-fall patterns, it sets only a marginally enforceable yearly total based on long-term averages. Theoretically, one big rain event could satisfy the bay’s annual requirement. Moreover, TCEQ’s draft rule leaves the bay completely unprotected when protection is most needed-during droughts.