New Waves April 2010

Breaking news about water resources research and education in Texas

Arroyo Colorado partnership celebrates Earth Day with activities that support WPP

The Arroyo Colorado Watershed Partnership will highlight many activities in the Lower Rio Grande Valley that support the implementation of the Arroyo Colorado Watershed Protection Plan(WPP) at their quarterly steering committee meeting, on April 22—Earth Day—at the Estero Llano Grande World Birding Center, 3310 S. FM1015, in Weslaco. All interested citizens are invited to attend.

The WPP, developed by the partnership and one of the first of its kind in the state, is designed to improve water quality and aquatic and riparian habitat, said Jaime Flores, watershed coordinator.

The Arroyo Colorado runs 90 miles from Mission to the Lower Laguna Madre adjacent to the Gulf Coast and is the primary source of fresh water to the Lower Laguna Madre. The partnership is administered by the Texas Water Resources Institute in cooperation with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TECEQ) and the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board.

Kicking off Earth Day is the grand opening of the city of San Juan’s 7-acre wetland and nature trail park, set for 8 a.m. to noon at the wetland, located near Hall Acres Road and Nebraska Avenue behind the city's parks and recreation building. The purpose of the wetland is to work as a natural water filtration system for the treated effluent water pumped from a San Juan Waste Water Treatment Plant. This water is cleaned and discharged into the Arroyo Colorado.

The Pharr-San Juan-Alamo High School is adopting the wetland and high school students will plant gardens and trees, construct benches and build bird houses, Flores said. Flores will present on behalf of the partnership as well as speakers from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas A&M University – Kingsville.

The San Juan wetland is part of a 3-city wetland project funded by the TCEQ and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of a Clean Water Act Section 319(h) grant. The cities of San Benito and La Feria are planning their wetlands. Wetland construction is part of the actions recommended in the WPP.

In another activity that supports the implementation of the WPP, the partnership and member cities of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Stormwater Task Force are continuing to install road signs marking Arroyo Colorado crossings or the boundary of the Arroyo Colorado watershed, Flores said. The city of Weslaco has recently installed four signs marking the Arroyo Colorado crossings and the other cities are installing 36 more before Earth Day. In 2009 the partnership and task force cities installed 10 signs.

At the steering committee meeting, Jason Pinchback, director of the Texas Stream Team, an affiliate of the River Systems Institute at Texas State University, will update the members on the activities of the Texas Stream Team in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The stream team is a network of agencies and trained volunteers working together to monitor water quality and educate residents about the natural resources in the state.

Amanda Engledow, a TWRI project manager, will present options for continuing the partnership’s efforts to implement the WPP.

“Implementation of the plan is currently supported by a grant from TCEQ and EPA,” she said. The steering committee is studying options to secure the partnership's future with local support and funding.

After the steering committee meeting, TCEQ will host a public meeting to gather information for a Recreational Use Attainability Analysis survey for the Arroyo Colorado.  The purpose of the survey is to determine actual and potential recreational uses in the Arroyo and, if necessary, to assign a more appropriate use, Flores said.

For more information on the meeting, contact Flores at 956.968.5581, or jjflores@ag.tamu.edu. For information on the partnership and its work, visit www.arroyocolorado.org.

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