Houston Environmental News Update June 2, 2015

IMG_2081A week ago, we were marveling at how much water that had just been dumped on us. The media was thinking about it too, with articles discussing the tragedies and damage, as well as lack of federal funding, park closures, delays in park openings, mountains of debris, the impact of flood control projects in reducing damage, politics, meteorology, dams, and hydroelectric power (Ok–this article was from before the floods). Check out some of the articles on Scoop.it.

We also saw a few articles (from Houston Matters and National Geographic, for example) about how flooding effects water quality.

The photo above shows White Oak Bayou during the flood, including a bubbling, submerged sewer and a tumped over port-a-potty. It doesn’t take much work to imagine what the sewers and port-a-potties–as well as the fluids coming from flooded cars, gas stations, storage tanks, and wastewater treatment plants (100,000 gallons at one plant alone!)–do to water quality.

In case you are curious about water quality all of the time, not just during flooding, H-GAC recently published the 2015 Basin Highlights Report, which discusses bacteria, nutrients, PCBs, dioxin, and low dissolved oxygen which are all monitored based on state standards. H-GAC works with many partners, CEC member organizations, and volunteers to examine water quality. Here are some highlights from the regional report:

  • 47% of stream miles have too much bacteria to meet the standards for safer swimming
  • 27% of stream miles have levels of dissolved oxygen too low to meet standards for sustaining aquatic life
  • 76% of tidal waters have levels of PCBs and/or dioxin (measured in fish and shellfish) too high to meet standards for safe eating

The report describes some of the work to improve water quality. For example, White Oak Bayou–which has had some of the highest bacteria levels in the state–has seen a 75% decrease in bacteria levels since 2008. The work of the Bayou Preservation Association to identify discharges was cited as an example of how environmental  nonprofits can work with local jurisdictions to improve water quality.

Speaking of water quality… Many environmental groups, including Environment Texas and Clean Water Action, are cheering a new federal rule which will provide federal protections for 75% of Texas streams.  Read the EPA announcement here, which specifically calls out prairie potholes and Texas coastal prairie wetlands.

CEC NOTES

  1. Photographer Jim Olive: How to Get Your Photos on the Front Page.

    Have you struggled to get your environmental story on the front page of the newspaper?  Do you have the tools necessary to make it happen?  Environmental non-profits face the challenge of money, manpower and the right material  – all in sync – to get the media’s attention.  Join us June 23rd, 6:30-8:00pm when CEC member Jim Olive will share how his environmental photography consistently gets published.  From Time magazine to the Galveston County Daily Press; from oil spills to earthquakes, Jim’s work over five decades continues to tell a compelling environmental story.  To view Jim’s qualifications and portfolio, visit www.stockyard.com and Facebook: Christmas Bay Foundation.

      

    Start with enviro-networking at 6:30pm, followed by the program from 7:00pm-8:00pm. Join us in the Havana Room, El Meson, 2425 University Boulevard in the Rice Village. linger for dinner with other like-minded souls after the event.

    Please register on Eventbrite as the room will fill up fast.  Suggested donation of $10 for members, $15 for non-members, cash bar. Because we expect to see out, members have three days head start before registration opens for non-members on Friday.

  2. CEC Events–Save the Dates
    • July 9, 2015: Happy Birthday CEC open house
    • September 3, 2015: Environmental Forum for Contested At-Large City of Houston Council races. Please contact rachel@cechouston.org if you would like to be a planning or promotional partner for the event.
    • November 17, 2015: CEC holiday open house
    • January 28, 2016: Wild & Scenic Film Festival On Tour
    • March 24, 2016: CEC’s Greater Houston Environmental Summit

COALITION NOTES

  1. Public Comment: Transportation Improvement Program. H-GAC is announcing the opening of a public comment period and public meeting for Major Amendments to the 2015-2018 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).  The public comment period lasts from May 25, 2015 to June 8, 2015 at 5pm. A public meeting will be held on June 2, 2015 from 5:30-7pm at the H GAC offices. In addition, staff will be available via webinar to answer questions from the public between noon-1:00pm on June 2, 2015 (register at https://goo.gl/QQVsab). The public is encouraged to attend and provide comments to H GAC. All written comments may be submitted to Transportation Public Information, Houston-Galveston Area Council, P.O. Box 22777, Houston, TX 77227-2777, emailed to publiccomments@h-gac.com, or faxed to 713-993-4508. Comments received during the public comment period will be provided to the Transportation Policy Council for their consideration along with the proposed Amendments. Learn more about TIP: www.h-gac.com.
  2. Houston Bike Plan – Public Meetings. There will be four community meetings held in the evenings throughout the month of June at various locations around the city, where you can learn about the Houston Bike Plan project and existing conditions and provide your input on biking in Houston. Dates, times, and locations are listed below:
    1. Houston Bike Plan Public Meeting: June 4, 2015, 6-8pm at Kashmere Garden Multi-Purpose Center
    2. Houston Bike Plan Public Meeting: June 9, 2015, 6-8pm at Palm Center Business Technology Center
    3. Houston Bike Plan Public Meeting: June 16, 2015, 6-8pm at HCC Memorial City Performing Arts Center
    4. Houston Bike Plan Public Meeting: June 23, 2015, 6-8pm at Baker-Ripley Neighborhood Center
  3. Transition Houston Meeting: Metro’s System Reimaging. You won’t want to miss Transition Houston’s meeting on June 2, 2015, 7-9pm at Live Oak Friends Meeting House (note the new meeting location)! Houston’s Metro will be presenting the new Bus Network / System Reimaging which is an innovative system of routes designed on where people want to go today, and tomorrow. The routes work together to create a network, with better connections, weekend service and much more. www.transitionhouston.org
  4. Summer Salon Series – “Minority Report: Why So Few Vote; When Will Hispanic Political Influence Reflect Demographic Reality.” The Center’s Summer Salons are a series of casual breakfast conversations, bringing big-picture thinkers and regional experts together with broader audiences, for an extended deep-dive discussion of our Indicators research, with a focus on the next steps for creating a sustainable and competitive Houston. There will be three events over the summer. The first event, “Minority Report: Why So Few Vote; When Will Hispanic Political Influence Reflect Demographic Reality,” will be held on June 3, 2015, 7:30-9:30am at The Junior League of Houston, Inc. The cost is $25 per person and includes a full breakfast buffet. Learn more and register at https://interland3.donorperfect.net.
  5. Free Habitat Restoration Program with Artist Boat. Artist Boat is looking for partners in the oil and gas industry who would like to participate in a free habitat restoration program. On June 5, 2015, from 10am-4pm, Artist Boat will be replanting a wetland habitat on Galveston Island that was damaged by human vehicular traffic. This is a fantastic teambuilding event, a great opportunity for environmental stewardship, and provides a way of giving back to the community while spending some time outside. The event will be held at Lafitte’s Cove in Galveston, TX. If you are interested in participating, contact Artist Boat’s Habitat and Stewardship Program Manager, Nate Johnson, at njohnson@artistboat.org or at 703-851-6019. View the program flyer: June5thWetland.
  6. KPC Unplugged Adventure: Monarch Madness. Did you know that the Monarch is the state insect of Texas? Come learn about these fascinating fliers and take a butterfly hike on the prairie. You’ll even get to take home some monarch habitat – your very own milkweed plant! This KPC event will be held on June 6, 2015, 9-11am at the Indiangrass Preserve. The cost is $5 per person. More at www.katyprairie.org.
  7. Skimmers and Dancers and Darners, Oh My! with Bob Honig. Get your Arboretum Certificate of Achievement in Science & Nature certifying your successful completion of a Nature Revealed class! This class will cover dragonflies! Using local species as examples, you will learn about the life histories of these beautiful, fascinating, and easily observed animals including behavior, reproduction, and feeding. You’ll learn the answers to such questions as: Is it possible to breathe and poop from the same orifice? And what is the killer lip? Then you’ll get to go outside to see these fascinating insects in action. The class will be held on June 6, 2015, 9-11am. The cost is $20 for HANC members and $35 for nonmembers. More at http://houstonarboretum.org.
  8. World Oceans Day and 1% To Conserve Galveston Island™. The program, 1% To Conserve Galveston Island™, makes contributing to conservation efforts on the Island as easy as purchasing lunch or grabbing an item from your favorite shop. When customers visit a participating 1% to Conserve Galveston Island business beginning in June, they will be given the opportunity to provide a voluntary donation of one percent of their purchase to the program. All proceeds collected by participating businesses will go directly to 1% To Conserve Galveston Island. Funds will be used for conservation efforts and to create public access amenities for the enjoyment of Galveston’s natural treasures. To officially kickoff the program, Artist Boat will host a celebration on World Oceans Day, June 8, 2015, at the Galveston Island R. A. Apffel (East Beach) Pavilion from 9-11am. Learn more: Roll Out One Percent Celebration.
  9. Seabrook Rain Barrel Workshop. Galveston Bay Foundation’s Rain Barrel Program works to conserve water and reduce stormwater runoff, pollution, and bacteria entering Galveston Bay. Each workshop is a unique and personal experience hosted by GBF’s Water Quality Team in partnership with local organizations and cities. Workshops consist of a presentation on the environmental benefits of collecting rainwater and proper rain barrel installation instructions and tips. Registration is $30, which includes one, 35-gallon barrel + one connector kit, and admission to the workshop for two people. Workshop registrees can purchase a maximum of 2 barrels + 2 kits. The next rain barrel workshop will be held on June 13, 2015, 9:30-11:30am at the Seabrook Community House. Learn more and register at http://galvbay.org.
  10. Buffalo Bayou Park’s Grand Opening – POSTPONED UNTIL FALL. Due to the recent flooding, Buffalo Bayou Park’s Grand Opening has been postponed until the fall. Look for updates at http://buffalobayou.org.
  11. CWI: Ag Programs and Invasive Species. The next Clean Waters Initiative Workshop will be held on June 24, 2015 from 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM at H-GAC. The topic is Ag Programs and Invasive Species. Speakers will discuss a variety of agricultural programs currently underway, as well as invasive species mitigation techniques. Speakers include representatives from Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, Texas Forest Service, Texas A&M, Harris County, Armand Bayou Nature Center and Plum Creek Watershed. Learn more and register: http://events.r20.constantcontact.com.
  12. Project WILD Workshop. Project WILD invites you to explore and share the fascinating world of wildlife and ecosystems using fun, hands-on educational activities. During the 6-hour training workshop participants will sample activities and receive Project WILD K-12 activity guide. Activities are adaptable for all grade levels, integrated with core subject curricula and aligned to the TEKS. SBEC credit available for teachers. Anyone who works with children, including teachers, home-schoolers, informal educators and scout leaders are welcome. This workshop will be held at Blackwood Educational Land Institute on June 30, 2015, from 9am-4pm. The cost is $25. Register at http://events.r20.constantcontact.com.
  13. 2015 H-GAC Basin Highlights Report. The 2015 H-GAC Basin Highlights Report has been released and can be found at www.h-gac.com. The report provides an overview of the current quality of the region’s surface waters and gives detailed looks at five specific waterbodies in the region: Cedar Bayou Tidal, Bastrop Bayou, West Fork San Jacinto River, East Fork San Jacinto River, and White Oak Bayou.

COMMUNITY NOTES

  1. Cultured Cocktails Happy Hour benefiting Fossilized in Houston. Fossilized in Houston is a partnership between Houston artists and environmentalists that seeks to make the environmental consequences of our actions visible on a day-to-day level. Currently Fossilized in Houston is commissioning 20 local artists to contribute images (drawings, paintings, collages and murals) of species endangered by climate change, which will contribute to a guerrilla public art campaign of hundreds lawn signs and thousands of posters and stickers that will become a regular presence throughout the city from March through July 2015. One June 14, come out to Bar Boheme (307 Fairview) between 5 and 7pm for a Cultured Cocktails happy hour. A percentage of all drinks purchased during those hours will go towards Fossilized in Houston, so come, bring your friends, and drink a lot! The organizers and a number of the artists will be there, and you’ll be able to pick up more lawn signs, posters, and stickers and win a free Fossilized in Houston T-shirt. You can share this info with friends: www.facebook.com.
  2. SXSW Eco. SXSW Eco will be held October 5-7, 2015, in Austin, TX. This event creates a space for business leaders, investors, innovators and designers to advance solutions that drive economic, environmental and social change. Register soon to get the lowest rate! Registration rate increases on June 5, 2015. Learn more at http://sxsweco.com.
  3. Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants. Bringing Nature Home is a book written by Doug Tallamy that has sparked a national conversation about the link between healthy local ecosystems and human well-being. By acting on Douglas Tallamy’s practical recommendations, everyone can make a difference. Come out for a presentation and book signing by the author on June 9, 2015, 4-7pm at United Way of Greater Houston. The price is $55 for OHBA members and $75 for on-members. Register at www.eventbrite.com.
  4. Public Meeting: 10 Proposed Early Restoration Gulf Projects. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees (Trustees) released a draft plan today that proposes 10 early restoration projects across the Gulf states at an estimated cost of $134 million. This includes two proposals involving Texas, a $45 million sea turtle restoration project and a $20 million bird rookery islands restoration project. The Draft Phase IV Early Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessments (Draft Plan) is available for public review and comment through June 19, 2015. It is posted online at www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov. There will also be a series of meetings throughout the Gulf Coast that will begin with an interactive open house during which Trustee staff will be available to discuss project details. The open house will be followed by a formal presentation and opportunity for the public to provide comments to Trustee representatives. One of those meetings will be held at Texas A&M University at Galveston Seawolf Parkway on June 10, 2015, 6-9pm. Learn more at www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov.
  5. Climate Change: Water as a Bridge to Mitigation and Adaptation. Beginning in the late 1980s, climate change issues were divided into two distinct policy categories: mitigation (carbon emissions reduction and sequestration) and adaptation (adjusting to the impacts of climate change). Climate change mitigation has faced challenging political obstacles, while adaptation has developed into an increasingly powerful operational framework centered on water management. However, these categories make little sense today. In the fourth talk in the Center for Energy Studies series on public policy and climate change, John H. Matthews, secretariat coordinator for the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation, will discuss water as a bridge to climate change mitigation and adaptation. The event will be held on June 11, 2015, 12-1:30pm at James A. Baker III Hall, Rice University. Learn more and RSVP at www.bakerinstitute.org.
  6. Dow Black Skimmer Day. Dow Texas Operations will hold their annual Skimmer Day on June 27, 2015, from 9am-noon. This free public event provides a rare opportunity to view one of the largest nesting colonies of Black Skimmers on the Texas Gulf Coast. Black Skimmers are considered colonial waterbirds because they nest in large colonies, usually on bay islands. These unique birds have a lower mandible longer than the upper which enables them to employ a unique feeding style. They feed by flying low over the water, opening their bills and skimming the water with their lower mandible to catch small fish. According to colonial waterbird data, Black Skimmers have declined on the Texas coast by 70% in the last 40 years so this colony at Dow is of increasing importance. Meet at the Dow A-41 gate located on FM 523 which is 1 mile south of the Hwy 332 and FM 523 intersection for shuttles to the site. If you would like to volunteer to help with this event, contact Janice Waldron (JYWaldron@dow.com) or Gabriella Cone (GVCone@dow.com).
  7. Teacher Trainings: Down Under Out Yonder (DUOY) and Intracoastal Waterway Wetlands Expedition (IWWE). A DUOY coral reef ecology underwater workshop for educators will be held from July 11-15, 2015. This 5-day expedition includes a 2-day Corals to Classrooms workshop followed by three days of diving the coral reefs of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, which harbors the northernmost coral reefs in the continental US, providing habitat for a variety of fish, turtles, and sharks. Participants return to their classrooms filled with innovative ideas for teaching biology, oceanography, geology, physical science, government, and environmental science. Another workshop, IWWE, a coastal habitat ecology workshop for educators, will be held from June 15-19, 2015. Cruise the estuaries of coastal Texas from the Louisiana border to Freeport by way of the Intracoastal Waterway during this five-day expedition. Along the way, participants explore diverse habitats as they learn about the natural and human threats to our living coast. Educators of all levels walk away from this experience with new knowledge and skills for educating students about coastal ecology (and economy). For more information, call 361-882-3939 or email info@gulfmex.org or visit http://www.gulfmex.org/education-training/duoy/.
  8. Houston Three By Three. Houston Three By Three is a program that includes three sessions with three speakers each who will discuss issues unique to the region, including innovative building skins created for hot-weather and high-wind environments, high performance facades, and the future face of Houston. The well rounded, informed dialogue will inform and inspire. This program includes the of the Facades+ 2-day conference into a quick-take morning forum with a local focus—Facades+AM—this time tailor-made for Texas and the Southwest region. Houston Three By Three will be held on June 18, 2015, at Hotel Icon. Learn more and register at http://am.facadesplus.com.
  9. Congressional Climate Message Day. On June 23, 2015, friends at Citizens’ Climate Lobby will be sending 900 volunteers to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, to lobby for legislation that prices carbon. You can help make their meetings a success by letting your representatives and senators know that their constituents support congressional action to address climate change. On June 22, 2015, you can participate by contacting Congress by phone and social media. Learn more at www.facebook.com.
  10. Additional Community Announcements
  11. TV: Texas Parks & Wildlife. Broadcast on KUHT Channel 8 at 3:00 PM each Saturday and on municipal access cable channels in Baytown, Deer Park, Houston, Nassau Bay, Pasadena, Seabrook, Sugar Land, and on HCC TV. More info on the TPWD website (* indicates a segment about the Houston area). For a preview, visit TPWD’s YouTube Page.
    • School of Fish
    • Wild Things: Rat Snakes
    • Eisenhower State Park
    • Island Assault 1944
  12. Air Quality Forecast. http://www.tceq.texas.gov/airquality/monops/forecast_today.html. Houston Clean Air Network and Realtime Ozone Mapping: http://houstoncleanairnetwork.com.
    • June 2, 2015: Orange–Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups–Ozone. Winds may be light enough and incoming background levels high enough for ozone levels to reach “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” or possibly higher on the east, southeast, and south side of the Houston area, with highest concentrations in the afternoon and early evening.
    • June 3, 2015: Orange–Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups–Ozone. Winds may be light enough and incoming background levels high enough for ozone levels to reach “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” on the north and northeast side of the Houston area.
    • June 4, 2015: Orange–Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups–Ozone. Winds may be light enough and incoming background levels high enough for ozone levels to reach “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” on the north and northeast side of the Houston area, with highest concentrations in the afternoon and early evening.
    • June 5, 2015: Orange–Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups–Ozone. Winds may be light enough and incoming background levels high enough for ozone levels to reach “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” on the north and northeast side of the Houston area, with highest concentrations in the afternoon and early evening.

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