tx H2O

txH2O Fall 2007

Agencies Approve Bacteria TMDL Task Force Recommendations

Story by Kathy Wythe

In June 2007 the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB) approved the recommendations of the Bacteria Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Task Force and asked their agencies to update their TMDL guidance documents to reflect these recommendations. They also authorized establishing a multi-agency bacteria TMDL work group to examine the research and development needs identified in the task force report.

Both TCEQ and TSSWCB members complimented the task force on the report. Larry Soward, TCEQ commissioner, called the task force report "significant, very important and well done," adding that he was impressed with "how open and inclusive it [the process] was."

"I think it's a good report," said Jerry Nichols, TSSWCB chairman, thanking the task force for their time and effort.

Dr. Allan Jones, Texas Water Resources Institute director and chairman of the seven-member task force, gave an overview of the report and its recommendations at the joint meeting. Other members of the task force were Drs. George Di Giovanni, The Texas A&M University System Agricultural Research and Extension Center at El Paso; Larry Hauck, Texas Institute for Applied Environmental Research at Tarleton State University; Joanna Mott, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi; Hanadi Rifai, University of Houston; Raghavan Srinivasan, Texas A&M University; and George Ward, The University of Texas at Austin. An expert advisory group of approximately 50 stakeholders and agency staff assisted the task force in developing the report.

Jones said the task force members had a few guiding principles when preparing the report, with the first one being the importance of stakeholder involvement. "This is a process that is not well understood by the public," Jones said. "We recommend in the report that agencies work very hard through existing organizations to get local input."

The task force report describes characteristics, strengths and weaknesses of several computer models (both existing or under development) that assist bacteria TMDL and implementation plan (I-Plan) analysis as well as bacterial source tracking methods.

The report also recommends a three-tier approach that incorporates adaptive management, phased TMDLs and phased implementation to the extent allowable by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Jones said in an interview.

"The objectives of Tiers 1 and 2 are to ensure that each TMDL is developed using a scientifically credible, cost-effective process with strong stakeholder involvement," he said.

Tier 3 is designed to develop a feasible I-Plan, and, for some complex TMDLs, expands the information available for TMDL development, he said.

The task force concluded its report by summarizing a number of research activities needed to strengthen the scientific tools available for TMDL and I-Plan development.

The report and related documents are available at twri.tamu.edu/programs/bacteria-tmdl.

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