|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2009-09-03                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than eight 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]
Sept. 3, 2009
Hurricane Ike Impact Lingers As 1-Year Anniversary Approaches
GALVESTON, Texas -- The loss of lives and property inflicted by Hurricane Ike on Galveston Island and the upper Texas coast a year ago on Sept. 13 has been well-documented. Less known, however, is the Category 2 storm's considerable impact on southeast Texas' natural resources and the challenges facing those persons entrusted with returning impacted flora and fauna to health.
Although tremendous strides have been made to repair facilities, restore ecosystems and rebuild lives, much remains to be done. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is working to do so, assisted by roughly $7 million in federal Ike relief funding.
Almost $3 million of the federal monies will go to hire commercial fishermen to pull bagless dredges over smothered oyster reefs and place 14,000 cubic yards of materials into Galveston Bay. The cultch, which is oyster shell, limestone, crushed concrete and the like, will help create new oyster reefs to begin addressing the loss of 8,000 acres of public reefs. Sedimentation resulting the hurricane caused a loss of more than 50 percent of the oyster resource in Galveston Bay. Most restoration efforts will focus on East Galveston Bay, which lost about 80 percent of its oyster population.
"It will take years to create 350 acres of oyster reef, but it's a start," said Lance Robinson, coastal fisheries upper coast regional director, who along with other TPWD personnel have learned some valuable lessons from Ike.
Robinson says there were lessons learned from Ike. He said his team likely will close coastal offices and move boats earlier the next time a major storm draws a bead on the Texas Gulf Coast. Big research vessels under his direction have been outfitted with solar arrays to charge batteries to generate the electricity needed to operate bilge water pumps.
Similarly, the agency's Law Enforcement Division, which led rescue operations on Bolivar Island and all along the coast, has purchased portable, inflatable command tent systems that include electric generators and sleeping quarters.
"Because of recent experiences with Rita, Gustav and Ike, I feel we have consistently improved," said Ted Tolle, regional commander for southeast Texas. "We've got district supervisors and game wardens who have been tried under fire and know what needs to be done. It's made us a better team."
One of the greatest success stories has come at Galveston Island State Park, whose beachside facilities were obliterated by Ike. One worst-case scenario suggested the park might remain closed up to seven years. But thanks to Herculean efforts by community volunteers and park staff, as well as Texas Department of Transportation crews, the state park already has reopened 66 campsites, including 36 on the beach side, and received state funding to hire a contractor to draw up a master plan to rebuild the park.
"Not just at Galveston, but at all the parks in our region, staff and volunteer efforts really moved us forward faster than expected," said Justin Rhodes, the southeast Texas region's state parks director. "Basically, this provided labor that would have cost more than we could afford."
Nearby hard-hit San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site, too, is seeing great progress in rebuilding and restoring services to visitors, including reopening a temporary park store to replace the old one destroyed by Ike-spawned flooding, according to Rhodes. All other state parks in his region, such as Lake Livingston and Martin Dies, Jr., also are fully operational. One major result from Hurricane Ike's strike, he added, has been the formation of a regional hurricane response team to speed up evacuation assistance for both park staff and the public.
Rhodes says the future of the hardest hit coastal state park, Sea Rim, remains undetermined, but debris removal operations are wrapping up. The park's marsh unit, he noted, should be open by Sept. 12, which will allow bank fishing opportunities and provide access to the Murphree Wildlife Management Area in time for the upcoming teal hunting season.
Several of TPWD's wildlife management areas, too, are in various stages of repair and habitat restoration in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. The WMAs will receive about $1.7 million of the $7 million in federal relief funding to begin levee erosion and water control structure repairs, said Jim Sutherlin, who oversees several WMAs, including hard-hit J. D. Murphree, where alligator nesting was severely impacted.
"We won't soon forget about it (the storm)," Sutherlin said. "We've got serious work to do still, including considerable habitat restoration, where storm scour converted marshes to open water that's still very salty."
But for all the misery inflicted by Ike on the Gulf Coast's natural resources, boat ramps, fishing piers and state park infrastructure, there are some positives.
"If there's a silver lining," Sutherlin said, "it's that the saltwater surge has killed a lot of exotic vegetation that we normally would spend thousands of dollars on herbicides and hundreds man hours to try to keep waterways and ponds open. They will reinvade, but it may keep exotics off of the coastal plains for several years."
Robinson, his counterpart in coastal fisheries, concurs.
"We shouldn't lose sight that hurricanes are natural phenomena and many species adapt to these events. Ike's storm surge put a lot of water in otherwise dry land, and as the water receded, it flushed out detritus in marshes and gave bays a big shot in the arm from a nutrient standpoint. We should expect to see increases in productivity in future years, all the way up to game fish like red drum and spotted sea trout."

[ Note: This item is more than eight 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: Nancy Herron, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, (512) 389-4362, nancy.herron@tpwd.texas.gov; John Spence, Texas Center for Service-Learning, (512) 420-0214, jspence@txcsl.org; Al Sommers, representing EnCana Corporation, (512) 330-0500, asommers@sommerspr.com ]
Sept. 3, 2009
Healthy Habitats Grants Awarded to 15 Texas Schools, Nonprofits
Student Projects Will Help Implement Texas Wildlife Action Plan
AUSTIN, Texas -- A total of $225,000 in Texas Healthy Habitats Grants has been awarded to 15 different schools and non-profit youth organizations across the state, including near Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston, Bryan, Lubbock and other cities. Each organization will receive up to $15,000 to support students doing service-learning projects to benefit wildlife and the environment.
The students will address priorities in the Texas Wildlife Action Plan, a blueprint to "keep common species common" and avoid more species from becoming threatened and endangered. Texas is believed to be the first state offering grants for student service projects to support a state wildlife action plan.
The grants are being administered by the Texas Center for Service-Learning, made possible with a donation from EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department scientists met with student-teacher teams on Aug. 14 in Austin, and TPWD experts will continue to guide grant projects as they unfold over the next year.
Students will research and define a local environmental issue, investigate public and organizational policies related to the issue, design and implement a service-learning project in collaboration with at least two community partners (including TPWD staff), evaluate and publicize the results to public officials and community members, and develop Web profiles for each project that will be integrated into the TPWD and TxCSL Web sites. Students will likely plan projects this fall and do field work in spring.
Earlier this year, EnCana donated $486,000 to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. The donations supports the Healthy Habitats grants program, plus two other projects-control of giant salvinia and other invasive plants choking Toledo Bend reservoir in East Texas, and facilities for the new Texas Game Warden Training Center in Hamilton County.
Since 1991, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation has been the official non-profit partner of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. By bringing together companies, corporations, communities and individuals, the foundation has raised more than $60 million benefiting a wide variety of projects.
EnCana is one of North America's largest independent natural gas producers. The company has a long history of supporting conservation and education causes. For the past two years EnCana has been on both the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index and the North American Index. Inclusion in these groups demonstrates high environmental, social, and business standards.
The Texas Center for Service-Learning is a statewide initiative of Region 14 Education Service Center and the Texas Education Agency that seeks to improve student achievement through service-learning, the thoughtful integration of community service with academic learning. The center assists students, teachers, administrators, and communities in Texas with training, technical assistance, and resources to develop and strengthen service-learning. It is generously supported by the Learn and Serve America program of the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Below are descriptions of grant recipients and their proposed projects, listed by metropolitan area or region.
Austin Area
Camp Fire USA Balcones Council - Coordinator Contact: Lavert Rodgers, (361) 442-5291, lrodger@campfireusabalcones.org -- Camp Fire USA Balcones Council, The Griffin School, and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center are partnering in a project to eradicate or control invasive species and restore natural habitat along Waller Creek, which flows through urban Austin into the Colorado River.
Ambleside School of Fredericksburg - Teacher/Coordinator: Tony Watson, (830) 990-9059, tony@amblesidefredericksburg.com -- The future site of the private Ambleside School of Fredericksburg is a 55-acre tract just outside the city on the Pedernales River. Students will transplant trees, forbs, and grasses in the upland pastures; build structures and/or install plants that provide favorable habitat for birds, mammals, butterflies, and hummingbirds; and transplant grasses in the riparian zone along the river to help reduce runoff and improve water filtration in this ecologically sensitive area.
Lake Travis High School, Lake Travis ISD -- Teacher/Coordinator: Peter Brunet and Bruce Hall, (512) 350-5122, brunetp@ltisdschools.org -- Students will examine the relationship between riparian (waterside) zone habitat health and biodiversity, study endangered songbirds and other wildflife, monitor water quality, and provide public environmental education in the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. Project parters include Travis County and Concordia University.
Lockhart Independent School District - Teacher/Coordinator: Jennifer Lickert, (512) 398-0606, jennifer.lickert@lockhart.txed.net -- Students from Carver Kindergarten, Plum Creek Elementary, and Lockhart Junior High School will remove non-native plants and replant natives to increase wildlife and plant variety along the Town Branch of Plum Creek, help restore and protect the creek and its wetlands, help reduce runoff and filter out pesticides and fertilizers before they reach the city park pond, restore Blackland Prairie, map area springs, and educate the community about all of these topics.
Therapeutic Family Life - Teacher/Coordinator: Leon Smith, (512) 695-4229, leon.smith@tflife.org -- This East Austin-based nonprofit places troubled children in healing settings. The project will focus on grassland habitat deterioration causing the decline of bobwhite quail and other prairie birds. Children will learn to survey rural land and recommend habitat restoration needs, working with several private landowners in Southeast Texas. Project partner is Wildlife Biologist Robert Perez, TPWD quail expert.
Dallas Area
Benjamin Franklin Middle School, Dallas Independent School District - Teacher/Coordinator: Holly Gentry, (972) 502-7100, hgentry@dallasisd.org -- At least 200 school students will help create a school habitat garden using plants native to the area to help restore Blackland Prairie. The garden will conserve water by collecting rain and using it to water the plants, which should also result in less water runoff flooding streets and less pollution ending up in creeks and rivers. Project partners include the Texas AgriLife extension office in Dallas and TPWD Urban Wildlife Biologist Brett Johnson.
Dallas Environmental Science Academy, Dallas Independent School District -- Teacher/Coordinator: Brenda Thomas, (972) 794-3950, brthomas@dallasisd.org -- This is a Community Sustainability Campaign to educate school students and citizens about air and water quality and pollution, energy alternatives to preserve the natural environment, habitat destruction, overpopulation of certain wildlife species, invasive species and concerns about the native Blackland Prairie.
Fort Worth Area
Aledo Middle School -- Teacher/Coordinator: Terry Snow, (817) 441-5198, tsnow@aledo.k12.tx.us -- Dozens of 9th and 8th grade students will conduct native grassland prairie restoration and related conservation education to improve water retention and water quality at Bear Creek Ranch, a 2200-acre private ranch near the school. Project partners include Dixon Water Foundation, Native Prairies Association of Texas, and Fort Worth Nature Center.
Fort Worth Country Day School -- Teacher/Coordinator: Perri Carr, (817) 239-3421, pcarr@fwcds.org -- This private school project will conserve and restore a 3-to-5 acre piece of school property which is a hillside fragment of increasingly rare native prairie. The site will soon experience habitat loss due from new highway construction and related development. Students will also demonstrate the benefits of building a green roof using native plants on a small shed.
Houston Area
Extraordinary Education Family Learning Center, Magnolia, TX -- Project Coordinator: Jackie Pace, 832-640-8141, Jackie@Ashley-Pace.com -- This nonprofit organization supporting approximately 75 home schooling families will create a natural habitat refuge for native and endangered plants and animals. Students will also conduct outreach and education, create water conservation strategies, reduce negative impacts of non-native and invasive species, and involve other groups to increase support for conservation on private lands and promote public-private conservation partnerships.
Urban Harvest -- Project Coordinator: Carol Burton, (281) 865-1966, carol@urbanharvest.org -- Urban Harvest, Inc. is a local charitable organization supporting a network of urban gardens, farms and orchards. They will partner with ProVision charter school students to remove invasive species, plant native trees and shrubs and increase bird diversity on a 16-acre woodland property connected with the school, located in the Sunnyside community of urban Houston.
Bryan/College Station Area
Hearne Junior High School -- Teacher/Coordinator: Robert Wilson, (979) 279-2449, rwilson@hearne.k12.tx.us -- Students will conduct water quality testing around Robertson County, and water conservation educational programs for elementary students and the at-large community, fulfilling a Texas Wildlife Action Plan call to build stakeholder relationships for water conservation. Partners include Texas A&M University/Dwight E. Look College of Engineering, Texas AgriLIFE Extension Service, and Brazos Valley Groundwater Conservation District.
Victoria/Central Coast
Travis Middle School, Port Lavaca -- Teacher/Coordinator: Sherrie Krause, (361) 552-3784, krauses@calcoisd.org -- Students will inventory baseline data on fish and wildlife species, create maps and set up monitoring to track changes, remove invasive species and restore an area on Matagorda Bay. They will clean up trash and use gravel and concrete debris to transform a fragmented shoreline currently used as a boat ramp into a native salt marsh. Norman Boyd of TPWD Coastal Fisheries Division is a project partner.
Panhandle/South Plains
Friona Independent School District, Parmer County -- Teacher/Coordinator: Patsy Allen, (806) 265-5189, pallen@frionaisd.com -- The project will conduct education and create awareness of the critical roles Playa Lakes play in providing water for wildlife, agriculture, industries, and communities. The shallow-water playas are vital for people and wildlife, but are not well known or understood by people in the region. Partners include Playa Lakes Joint Venture, Ogallala Commons, and Texas Tech University.
Shallowater Independent School District, near Lubbock -- Teacher/Coordinator: Cindy Couch, (806) 832-4535, ccouch@shallowaterisd.net -- Students will educate people about the water cycle and prevent contamination of groundwater in the Ogallala Aquifer. Going beyond "turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth," the project will teach kids how water circulates in the central and southern Great Plains, and how humans need to actively work with nature to protect the water cycle.
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