|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2007-10-11                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than nine years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
[ Additional Contacts: Tom Harvey, TPWD, (512) 389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov; Terry Clawson, TCEQ, (512) 239-5000, TClawson@tceq.state.tx.us ]
Oct. 11, 2007
San Jacinto River Dioxin Site Proposed for Federal Cleanup
HOUSTON, Texas -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed listing an abandoned toxic waste site in the San Jacinto River for the federal National Priorities List (NPL). If approved for inclusion on the NPL the site will be eligible for cleanup in the federal Superfund program.
"This listing results from the cooperative efforts of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency -- Region 6 staff," said Patricia Radloff, Ph.D., TPWD water quality program leader. "Our agency is proud to have done the research that initiated the process. TCEQ took our information and moved quickly to authorize additional sampling, which confirmed very high levels of dioxin in the area. EPA verified the information and proposed the site for the NPL, with support from U.S. representatives Gene Green and Ted Poe. The proposed listing today thus represents the culmination of many people working for years to protect human health and public waters."
In early 2005, TPWD became aware of information that suggested waste pits in a sandbar in the San Jacinto River just north of the Interstate Highway 10 (I-10) bridge, including recent and historical photographs and maps of the area. Anecdotal evidence suggested that pits were operated there from the mid-1960's until around the mid-1970's to dispose of paper mill waste. Due to subsidence, the pits went underwater sometime in the 1970's.
The submerged waste pits represent a previously unidentified major source of dioxin and other toxins for the San Jacinto River, the Houston Ship Channel and Galveston Bay. Paper mill waste from the 1960's and 70's is known to contain high levels of dioxins and other toxic chemicals from chlorine bleaching processes then in use.
The potential presence of sediment contamination is an immediate concern since the San Jacinto River near the I-10 bridge is very active with respect to dredging, sand mining, and barge berthing. These activities may be spreading potentially contaminated sediments or resuspending dioxins in the water column. Therefore, scientists consider inclusion on the NPL paramount to remove this potential threat to the river, fish and wildlife and people.
"The discovery of this contaminant source and swift action to address it would make a significant contribution to remediate damage done to the health of the Galveston Bay ecosystem," stated Larry McKinney, Ph.D., TPWD coastal fisheries director. "If the site is listed for federal cleanup the human health benefits are clear, but we would also expect to see direct benefits for our fishery, especially for species like spotted seatrout."
In April 2005, TPWD wrote TCEQ advising officials there of the new information and requesting assistance to make sure appropriate measures were taken to protect fish and wildlife. TCEQ moved quickly and sampling under the Preliminary Assessment/Site Inspection (PASI) program at TCEQ was conducted that summer. A complete site inspection report, including sampling data analysis and other background information, was ready in early 2007.
In addition, TCEQ approved reallocating resources for the Houston Ship Channel Dioxin Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) project to sample a broad area around the I-10 Bridge. TMDL project sampling was conducted in August 2005 and results were published in January 2006. The PASI study found very high levels of dioxin in the waste pit area, while the TMDL sampling found elevated levels of dioxin over a much larger area.
The proposed listing stems from EPA's review of the state site inspection report. Federal scientists have said they agree the site presents a significant threat and must be cleaned up. In a letter dated July 26, 2007, Governor Rick Perry expressed the state's support for EPA's plan to add the polluted area to the priorities list.
The term dioxin is used to represent a family of environmentally persistent chlorinated organic chemicals. Dioxins are closely related to two other chemical families, furans and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These compounds are potent animal toxicants and represent a threat to aquatic life and human health at extremely low concentrations. While many organic chemicals are toxic at parts per million concentrations, dioxins and furans are known to be toxic in the parts per trillion and parts per quadrillion ranges.
In addition, dioxins and furans bioaccumulate in animal tissue and their tissue concentrations biomagnify as they move up the food chain. Dioxins can alter the fundamental growth and development of cells. In humans, adverse effects include suppression of the immune system, a variety of reproductive effects from reduced fertility to birth defects, chloracne, and cancer.
Since the 1970's, sources of dioxin have been greatly reduced, but some sources still exist in combustion of fossil fuels and wood, incineration of solid waste, and certain chemical manufacturing processes.
The Houston Ship Channel, including the lower San Jacinto River, and Upper Galveston Bay are known to be contaminated with dioxin. The Texas Department of State Health Services, formerly the Texas Department of Health, has issued several fish consumption advisories. In 1990, TDH issued a fish consumption advisory for all species of fish and blue crabs for dioxin, organochlorine pesticides and PCBs for the upper portion of the Houston Ship Channel including the San Jacinto River below the U.S. Highway 90 bridge.
In 2001, the agency issued an advisory for all species of catfish and blue crabs for dioxin for Upper Galveston Bay and the lower portion of the Houston Ship Channel. And in 2005, TDH issued an advisory for spotted seatrout for polychlorinated biphenyl compounds (PCBs) for the Houston Ship Channel including the San Jacinto River below the U.S. Highway 90 bridge, Tabbs Bay, and Upper Galveston Bay.
In response to the 1990 advisory, in 2000 TCEQ's precursor agency began a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) project to identify sources of dioxin and determine the amount of dioxin that the Ship Channel can receive and still support its use as a fishery. Sampling conducted as part of the TMDL project, and earlier sampling done as part of a Houston Ship Channel toxicity study, found high concentrations of dioxins in fish and crab tissue and in the sediments in the San Jacinto River near the I-10 bridge. The TMDL sampling also found high concentrations of dioxin in water there. In both studies the source of dioxin in or near the San Jacinto River could not be identified.
On the Net:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Superfund program: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/index.htm
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Houston Ship Channel Dioxin TMDL:
Texas Department of State Health Services, Seafood and Aquatic Life Consumption Bans and Advisories: http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/seafood/survey.shtm#info

[ Note: This item is more than nine years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [RM]
Oct. 11, 2007
Campout at Frontier Fort Highlights Halloween Happenings
SHEFFIELD, Texas -- Why wait for a Halloween, which falls on a Wednesday this year, when you can get a jump on Hallow's Eve by sending your little ghouls and goblins to a sleepover on the grounds of an abandoned frontier fort or taking them to a state park to listen to campfire ghost tales or learn about bats?
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is teaming up with the Texas Pecos Region, Friends of Fort Lancaster, Ozona Chamber of Commerce and Iraan-Sheffield Chamber of Commerce to sponsor "A Fort Lancaster Ghostly Campout" on Saturday, Oct. 27. The first-ever sleepover to be held at the state historic site will feature a host of events, including guided trail hikes through the ruins, campfire ghost stories, a wildlife scavenger hunt and weenie roast.
"Fort Lancaster has stood guard over the Pecos River Valley, protecting the region for more than 150 years," said historic site superintendent Chris Elliott. "This is a chance for the people of the Pecos Trails Region to help do their part to protect and preserve the fort."
While the number of overnight campers is limited to 26, all visitors are welcome to visit the 1855 fort built by the U.S. military to guard those traveling the San Antonio to El Paso Road from "Indian hostilities." The event is the first of many planned fun and education fundraisers for the historic site located west of Ozona and just 10 minutes south of Interstate 10 in Crockett County.
Fort Lancaster State Historic Site covers 81 acres of the beautiful and rugged Pecos Valley. The fort's interpretive center features exhibits on military history, natural history and archeology.
Campers are asked to bring their own tents, bedrolls, lanterns, personal snacks, cameras, binoculars and, of course, their favorite ghost stories. To get more details or to make a camping reservation, visit the Texas Pecos Trail Web site or call the fort at (432) 836-4391. The cost is $25 or $35 for two.
A number of other state parks and historic sites are hosting Halloween events, including Magoffin Home State Historic Site in El Paso. The "Stories of Spirits" tour on Oct. 13 lasts two hours and costs $5 per person. Tour participants will hear stories of spirits that are said to haunt the home and grounds, and odd events that occur in the old adobe residence. Call (915) 533-5147 to make reservations.
On Oct. 20, Varner-Hogg Plantation State Historic Site will hold a "Halloween Haunted Hayride." Hop aboard a haunted hayride for a night of ghouls, goblins and goodies. A spooky storyteller and ghostly games will be part of the night's entertainment. Call (979) 345-4656 for more information.
Visitors to Lake Texana State Park near Edna can have some spooky fun hiking a haunted trail on Oct. 27. Carnival games, pumpkin carving and costume contests for children 12 and younger will be part of the festivities. The "Haunted Trail" will be held from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, call (361) 782-5718.
On Oct. 27, Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco hosts the 2nd annual Halloween Fest features a presentation on snakes, bats and owls. Learn why these "scary" creatures are not so spooky after all. The park, part of the World Birding Center, will offer a kid's costume contest, crafts, night hikes, spooky stories, candy, popcorn and more for the whole family. Call (956)565-3919.
"Bat Mania" at Palo Duro Canyon State Park on Oct. 27 shines the spotlight on these misunderstood mammals that have become associated with Halloween vampires. Head for the Lone Star Interpretive Theater in the park to enjoy an enlightening presentation on the bats that live in the Panhandle canyon. The program starts at 7 p.m. For more information, call the par at (806) 488-2227.
The focus is on the outdoors at Sheldon Lake State Park's "Natural Halloween" being held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 27. Join the Halloween fun at the Houston area park that will include a "Fear Factor" table, "Skins and Skulls" exhibit, "Creatures of the Night Nature Walk," campfire tales and more. Call (281) 456-2800 for more information.
On the Net:

[ Note: This item is more than nine years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [SL]
Oct. 11, 2007
Range Conditions Bring Favorable Quail Outlook
AUSTIN, Texas -- While tempering expectations, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists say favorable range conditions should make for good quail hunting this season, particularly in areas that held birds last year.
The statewide quail season runs Oct. 27-Feb. 24. The daily bag limit is 15, with 45 in possession. Legal shooting hours for all non-migratory game birds are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. The bag limit is the maximum number that may be killed during the legal shooting hours in one day.
With quail hunting, opportunity is tied directly to production and this year's crop of birds looks to be above average, according to TPWD quail census data.
Ideal quail production occurs in years that remain wet and cool during the spring and early summer months because it extends the window of opportunity for reproduction, according to TPWD quail program leader Robert Perez.
Because quail production is "density dependent" as birds are striving to recover from hard times in recent years, Perez noted hens typically will make as many nesting attempts as conditions allow until they are successful or run out of time.
This year, most of the state experienced an unseasonably wet spring and summer with below-normal summer temperatures. For these reasons quail production was expanded in some areas as evidenced by reports of differing size classes of chicks observed by biologists during the summer.
"It's hit or miss; if you had some birds last year then you likely will have a great season," Perez noted. "If every bird seemed to disappear last year then you can only get so much better in one reproductive effort, so you will have a better season but not a great one. The Rolling Plains seemed to bounce back better than most of South Texas, although down along the coast looks great."
Below is a summary of quail production around the state, based on annual census surveys conducted by TPWD and what hunters can expect to find this season.
Statewide surveys were initiated in 1978 to monitor quail populations. This index uses randomly selected, 20-mile roadside survey lines to determine annual quail population trends by ecological region. This trend information helps determine relative quail populations among the regions of Texas. Comparisons can be made between the mean (average) number of quail observed per route this year and the long term mean (LTM) for quail seen within an ecological region. The quail survey was not designed to predict relative abundance for any area smaller than the ecological region.
Rolling Plains
An unusually cool and wet spring and summer resulted in an extended breeding season for bobwhites in the Rolling Plains. This is evidenced by field reports of differing size classes of chicks observed throughout the summer. Although they were impacted by dry conditions last year, much of the region seemed to carry over enough birds to make a decent rebound. Survey results and field staff observations predict a slightly below-average to average year.
According to Chip Ruthven, a lack of adult broodstock will be a limiting factor in production this year. Those birds that did survive are doing their part, however, with the average number of bobwhites observed per route at 21 compared to 14 last year. This is slightly below the LTM of 22.5. Despite low carry over from last year's drought, enough young birds have been produced to offer good bobwhite hunter opportunity, especially in areas under proper range management. Public hunting opportunities can be found at the Matador and the Gene Howe Wildlife Management Areas.
South Texas Plains
This region also experienced an extended breeding season but seems to have had even fewer breeders available in the spring than the Rolling Plains. Flooding was also an issue in some counties. Pairs will re-nest if chicks or eggs are lost to exposure or flooding, but it's just one more hurdle for the birds to overcome. Habitat conditions are extremely lush, by south Texas standards, and roadside visibility was poor during our quail surveys. As a consequence, TPWD results are likely an underestimate of the quail population, admitted Perez. Field staff reported good production and confirmed that certain areas, especially in the eastern half (more coastal areas) were holding fair to good numbers of birds. These areas will offer good hunter opportunity.
The average number of bobwhites observed per route was 7 compared to 3 last year. This is well below the LTM of 19.8 and is predictive of a below-average hunting season. However, as mentioned, this is likely an underestimate. The Chaparral and the Daughtrey Wildlife Management Areas provide public quail hunting opportunities.
The Trans-Pecos ecological region of Texas has experienced above-average populations of scale quail for the past four years. Favorable weather conditions during the summer set up good nesting conditions over much of the region. Reports from the western edge of the Edwards Plateau (the Stockton Plateau) also indicate average to above-average populations of scaled quail.
The average number of scaled quail observed per route was 28 compared to 19 last year. This is well above the LTM of 18 and for those hunters willing to chase these birds it should be a very good season. Public hunter opportunities can be found at Elephant Mountain and Black Gap Wildlife Management Areas.
Access to hunting on TPWD managed public land is available with the purchase of a $48 Annual Public Hunting Permit, which can be bought wherever hunting licenses are sold, online or by calling toll free (800) 895-4248. There is a $5 convenience fee for online and phone purchases.
On the Net: