Environmental Stewardship attempted to organize an effort to develop a watershed protection plan for the segment of the Colorado River that passes through Bastrop County. The purpose of the Bastrop County Watershed Protection Plan (WPP) was to ensure a sound ecological environment in Bastrop County that serves the needs of the natural and human communities by protecting and enhancing the land and water interaction as measured by water quality, aquatic and wildlife habitat parameters. In the inital phase the project would have assembled and informed a stakeholder group in the Bastrop County reach of the lower Colorado River basin capable of developing a Watershed Protection Plan (WPP) that pro-actively protects and restores the watershed.
As the Central Texas region experiences exceptional population growth and development pressure as urban Austin expands down the Colorado River corridor there is an opportunity to unite the numerous programs and activities that bring focus on various aspects of land and water use into a pro-active protection plan through a stakeholder process that assimilates the many state and local activities related to water and land use planning.
Lacking a coordinated effort to protect the watershed, Bastrop County’s streams will likely experience impairments due to bacteria, nutrients and/or low dissolved oxygen in the same way numerous watersheds in Austin/Travis County have been impacted by urbanization. The most common source of water quality impairments to lakes, rivers and streams in Texas is bacteria from nonpoint source polllution. Bacteria is of particular concern for waters that have high recreation use value such as the Colorado River. Click here to learn more about TCEQ management programs for nonpoint source pollution (TCEQ website). Currently Gilleland Creek, a tributary to the Colorado River which runs through Pflugerville in Travis County is under a regulatory mandated process to correct bacterial impairment that has resulted from growth and development over the last several years. Environmental Stewardship’s Executive Director has served as a stakeholder on the Gilleland Creek stakeholder group since 2007. Click here to learn more about the Gilleland Creek project (TCEQ website) mandated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
WHAT IS A WATERSHED PROTECTION PLAN?
The State of Texas has adopted a watershed approach for preserving and improving water quality. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is the lead agency in managing water quality programs. By looking at a watershed – the geographic area that drains to a common body of water – Texas can evaluate the sources of pollution that may be affecting water quality, establish priorities, develop community-based solutions, and cooperate with local stakeholders to implement those solutions.
The watershed approach is based on four basic principles:
- Geographic focus based on hydrology rather than political boundaries
- Objectives for water quality based on scientific data
- Coordinated priorities and integrated solutions
- Diverse, well-integrated partnerships
Watershed protection plans (WPP) may be developed to protect high-quality waters, to address threatened waters before they become impaired, or to restore water bodies which have become impaired. These plans are based on environmental targets, usually the applicable water quality standards for that body of water. Guidelines for acceptable water protection plans that meet standards for federal nonpoint source grants as authorized by Section 319 of the Clean Water Act have been established by the US Environmental Protection Agency and are being used elsewhere in the State of Texas.
Watershed protection plans:
Describe the sources of pollution affecting a particular segment.
Define the voluntary actions that will be taken to reduce pollution or restore water quality.
Are developed in cooperation with regional and local stakeholders.
Watershed protection plans provide the opportunity to improve and protect water quality so that potential problems are addressed before the stream, lake, or bay actually fails to meet water quality standards. However, because of the high number of impaired water bodies in the State of Texas, most plans are post-impairment Watershed “Correction” Plans. This proposal is an attempt to get ahead of the curve and implement a true Watershed Protection Plan.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A WATERSHED PROTECTION PLAN?
- Voluntary & Stakeholder Driven (not regulatory and State mandated)
- Provides framework for local cooperative planning
- Addresses all sources and causes of pollution in a watershed (holistic)
- Opens door for technical and funding assistance – Federal and State
- Leverages local resources through federal and state grant opportunities
- Flexible and adaptive
- Protects watershed and environment without discouraging growth and development
- Provides an opportunity to protect & restore land and water resources that provide aquatic and wildlife habitat.
WHO ARE THE PROPOSED STAKEHOLDER GROUPS?
A stakeholder group would be assembled with representation from, but not limited to, the following groups (which group do you represent?)
Landowners City and County Officials and Planning Groups
Homeowners Water and Wastewater Utilities
Local Businesses Environmental Advocates
Agricultural Producers Conservationists
Industries Religious & Civic Groups