Houston Environmental News Update July 27, 2016

The Houston-Galveston area has 16,000 miles of streams and shoreline providing a network of valuable habitat and ecosystem services for the region, connecting freshwater streams to productive coastal estuaries and connecting us to nature and to each other. Clean water is a foundation for our regional economy, contributing $4 billion annually through ecotourism, oyster harvesting, and commercial fishing.
However, more than 80 percent of stream miles within the region fail to meet state water quality standards or screening criteria for one or more parameters. Projected population growth will continue to strain the health of waterways if proper management practices are not established.
Want to learn more about our water quality? Once every five years, theHouston-Galveston Area Council completes a comprehensive report, the Basin Summary Report, which provides an in-depth assessment of water quality issues in 15 counties included in the H-GAC region. CEC strongly encourages you to learn more about the water quality issues–and success stories–associated with our waterways by visiting the website for the newly released 2016 Basin Summary Report: www.bsr2016.com.

CEC NOTES

  • Save the Date: Wild & Scenic Film Festival On Tour. Please mark you calendars for January 25 & 26, 2017, for two nights of inspiring short environmental films.
  • Wild & Scenic Film Festival On Tour–Film Selection Viewings
    Please help CEC select films for inclusion in the January 2017 showing of the WSFF. We’ll have popcorn and other snacks and great company. Please RSVP to [email protected] or on facebook. All viewings will be at the CEC office. Dates & Times:
    • Sunday, July 31, 2016, 6 pm
    • Monday, August 8, 2016, 6:30 pm
    • Friday, August 12, 2016, 4:30 pm

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Environmental Headlines for the Houston Region: July 26, 2016

Featured

  1. 1.  Hot-weather records keep being set – and more look to be in the making ( Bill Davidson – Texas Climate News, 24/7/2016) “With the National Weather Service warning of ‘dangerous heat and humidity’ across a huge swath of the country this weekend and for several days to come – including some heat-index readings over 100 degrees from the central to eastern U.S. – it’s a fitting moment for another of TCN’s occasional updates on recent high-temperature records….According to federal scientists and other experts, June was yet another in a string of record-warm months for temperatures averaged worldwide, which now stretches back more than a year. From the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Warmer to much-warmer-than-average conditions dominated across much of the globe’s surface, resulting in the highest temperature departure [from average] for June since global temperature records began in 1880. This was also the 14th consecutive month the monthly global temperature record has been broken – the longest such streak in NOAA’s 137 years of record keeping. If it’s any consolation to the heat-weary, June’s temperatures weren’t nearly as much above average as the first five months of the year.But that was no solace to experts looking at the world’s longer-term warming trend.Deke Arndt, who heads the climate monitoring division at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, put the recent run of records into perspective for Climate Central: ‘We’ve left the 20th century far behind. This is a big deal.’” www.texasclimatenews.com

  2. Houston’s development boom and reduction of wetlands leave region flood prone (Kim McGuire – Houston Chronicle, 7/22/2016)
    “Coffee brown water flows through ditches in rural Waller County, the remnant of storms that drenched the Katy Prairie during Houston’s Tax Day flood. Weeks after that epic rainfall, the prairie is awash in daisies and blue and purple horesemint flowers. Beavers take advantage of ponds brimming with water, and nearby dirt roads show little evidence of being recently inundated. ‘This is how the land is supposed to act,’ said Mary Anne Piacentini, executive director of the Katy Prairie Conservancy, a nonprofit land trust. ‘It’s supposed to absorb water and filter out pollutants. It’s not supposed to send it roaring into the rivers and bayous and homes.’ In the greater Houston area, though, the staggering increase of impervious surfaces — roads, sidewalks, parking lots, anything covered with asphalt and concrete — has exacerbated the effects of flooding as development in the region has exploded. When land is covered by these surfaces, it loses ability to act like a sponge and soak up water. Things are further complicated in flat-as-a-pancake Houston, where much of the soil is heavily compacted and acts like pavement anyway, sending sheets of storm water to the nearest low-lying area.”
    www.houstonchronicle.com
  3. Widespread burn bans in follow half a year of heavy rains (Samantha Ketterer – Houston Chronicle, 7/15/2016) ” ‘Despite historic flooding and heavy rains across the state this spring, 75 counties in Texas are under burn bands. In a strange twist of nature, the rains contributed to the problem,’ said John Nielsen-Gammon, a Texas climatologist and professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University. ‘The biggest fire danger in Texas is where we have a spell of wet weather followed by a spell of dry weather,’ he said. “To get fire, you also need fuel, and all the rain that we had over the past year and a half allowed for grasses to grow quite a bit, so there’s a lot of foliage out there that can dry out.”Harris County and surrounding areas are not under burn bans, but local parks and land managers say concerns will rise if arid conditions continue.’We aregetting dry,’ said Sam Reese, Warren Ranch Manager at Katy Prairie Conservancy, which is working to add about 30,000 additional acres to the 20,000 acres of land preserved west of Houston.’There’s still a green color to a lot of the forest out there, but it turns brown pretty quick if we don’t get enough moisture,’ he said.Several areas in the prairie lands have higher-than-usual grass – spots that could be fire risks. ‘Within a week or less, probably a cigarette ember would be pretty problematic, and might be in some areas right now,’ Reese said.’ ” www.houstonchronicle.com
  4. Texas’ official sea turtle far below historical numbers (Harvey Rice – Houston Chronicle, 7/15/2016)
    “The nesting season for the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is ending with zero nests found on either Galveston Island or the Bolivar Peninsula for the first time in at least a decade, although the number rose for the entire coast. The decline in nesting on the Upper Texas Gulf Coast comes as a recent study shows that the nest numbers for Texas’ official sea turtle, whose primary nesting grounds are in Texas and Mexico, are at less than one-tenth of their historic levels. Only five Kemp’s ridley nests were found on the upper Texas coast – four at Surfside and one at Quintana Beach – during the nesting season that runs from April until the middle of July, although there are always a few late nesters.”
    www.houstonchronicle.com
  5. Community Design: How a New Pocket Park Came to the Near Northside (Kate Cairoli – OffCite, 7/14/2016)
    “Not all vacant lots are the same. Some are nestled between residential lots and looked after by neighbors; some are littered and adjacent to highways; still others have a nascent appeal that can benefit from the right intervention. One such lot is located along Fulton Street between Panama Street and Hammock Street in the Near Northside. The property consists of two vacant lots owned by the City of Houston’s Parks and Recreation Department. A crosswalk connects the property to a light rail stop. There are commercial properties along Fulton to the north, south, and west; to the east is a residential area. Currently, there is one tree in the middle of the site, overgrown brambles and a row of trees along the fence on the eastern side of the property, and a utility right-of-way with power lines that bisect the lot. Community members have long wanted to create a pocket park here. Recently, they worked with the Greater Northside Management District (GNMD) to realize that vision.”
    http://offcite.org
  6. Hot-weather records keep being set – and more look to be in the making (Bill Dawson – Texas Climate News, 7/24/2016)
    “With the National Weather Service warning of “dangerous heat and humidity” across a huge swath of the country this weekend and for several days to come – including some heat-index readings over 100 degrees from the central to eastern U.S. – it’s a fitting moment for another of TCN’s occasional updates on recent high-temperature records… According to federal scientists and other experts, June was yet another in a string of record-warm months for temperatures averaged worldwide, which now stretches back more than a year.”
    http://texasclimatenews.org

EcoNotes

  • 24 July
    • Hot-weather records keep being set – and more look to be in the making (Bill Dawson – Texas Climate News)
      http://texasclimatenews.org
  • 22 July
    • Houston’s development boom and reduction of wetlands leave region flood prone (Kim McGuire – Houston Chronicle)
      www.houstonchronicle.com
    • Weekly Roundup: In the Country’s Most Expensive Cities, It Takes Too Long to Build (Ryan Holleywell – The Urban Edge)
      http://urbanedge.blogs.rice.edu
    • Texas ranch recognized for outstanding environmental stewardship (High Plains Journal)
      www.hpj.com
    • Earth Day Texas Unveils the First Ever ‘Earth Day Texas Expeditions’ (Environmental Protection)
      https://eponline.com
    • NOAA Fisheries Announces the Extension of the Gulf of Mexico Commercial Shrimp Permit Moratorium (Southeast Fishery Bulletin)
      http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov
  • 21 July
  • 20 July
  • 19 July
  • 18 July
  • 17 July
    • Pipeline leak near Exxon Mobil’s Baytown plant prompts evacuations (Lauren Carube – Houston Chronicle)
      www.chron.com
  • 15 July
    • Texas’ official sea turtle far below historical numbers (Harvey Rice – Houston Chronicle)
      www.houstonchronicle.com
    • Texas Gets Boost in New Mexico Water Fight (Jim Malewitz – The Texas Tribune)
      www.texastribune.org
  • 14 July
    • Community Design: How a New Pocket Park Came to the Near Northside (Kate Cairoli – OffCite)
      http://offcite.org
  • 13 July
  • 12 July
    • Supreme Court to Consider Report on Rio Grande Case (Susan Montoya Bryan – ABC News)
      http://abcnews.go.com
    • Cleanup continues from 2015 deadly flooding in Texas (Elizabeth Findell – Hastings Tribune)
      www.hastingstribune.com
  • 11 July
    • A perfect pair? Well, on climate policy, Texas and ExxonMobil rarely agree (Randy Lee Loftis – Texas Climate News)
      http://texasclimatenews.org

Environmental Headlines for the Houston Region: July 17, 2015

Featured

  1. Harris County warns of possible contaminated drinking water; more testing set (Kim McGuire – Houston Chronicle, 7/6/2016)
    “Harris County Public Health officials have warned a group of people who live near a Channelview Superfund site not to drink their tap water after dioxins were possibly detected in some private wells. County officials, however, acknowledged that a laboratory error requires them to retest the water and the initial results from 100 private wells may prove to be incorrect. The second tests are expected to be conducted Thursday and results should be available in three weeks. In the meantime, health officials sent a letter dated July 1 to the residents near the San Jacinto Waste Pits advising them to drink bottled water until the second test is concluded.”
    www.houstonchronicle.com
  2. City: Telling everybody about the hazardous chemicals stored all over town wouldn’t be safe (Swamplot, 7/7/2016)
    “A Houston Chronicle attempt to get more info about the surprise chemical warehouse fire that turned Spring Branch Creek blood red earlier this year has been denied by the city, writes Matt Dempsey this week. The city has reportedly appealed to the state attorney general’s office to block the records request, as well as the paper’s broader request for “the name and address of every facility that files a hazardous material inventory form.” The early May fire spread from a residence on Laverne St., igniting still-unquantified amounts of still-unnamed chemicals stored at the Custom Packaging & Filling warehouse behind it — a business that didn’t show up on the list of storage facilities the Chronicle was able to compile from local emergency planning groups, after the city and state blocked a previous request for similar info last year. “
    http://swamplot.com
  3. Design of White Oak Bayou in Houston getting another look (Houston Chronicle, 7/13/2016)
    “When Bob Lee looks out at the White Oak Bayou, he sees a waterway that could be so much more. Lined by concrete surfaces to better channel floodwaters, the bayou northwest of downtown draws walkers and bikers to its walkways, but much of the corridor is hardly a scenic gathering place. In contrast, Houstonians flock to nearby Buffalo Bayou Park, where the waterway flows through a natural landscape of trees, plants and grasses. “It would be so nice to be walking along something that was more like Buffalo Bayou,” said Lee, a resident of Houston’s Heights neighborhood for more than 30 years who sits on the White Oak Bayou Association board. The Houston Chronicle (http://bit.ly/29vzsUP ) reports that now, aging infrastructure and costly repairs are prompting the Harris County Flood Control District and a local redevelopment authority to take a second look at the White Oak Bayou’s design.”
    www.chron.com

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