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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Double Bayou: Studying, understanding and protecting a scenic, two-fork stream near Galveston Bay

Double Bayou Watershed

Creating a watershed protection plan for "impaired and threatended waters"

The east and west forks of Double Bayou flow into Trinity Bay, part of the Galveston Bay complex, across a flat, largely rural terrain.

Most of that land is devoted to grazing pasture. There are also rice farms, irrigation canals, small communities and scattered oil and gas wells. The scenic area is popular for recreational uses including kayaking, canoeing, birding, hunting and fishing.

Despite the Double Bayou watershed's predominantly rural nature, both forks of the stream are included on Texas’ official list of "impaired and threatened waters."

The major water-quality measurements of concern to date are "extremely low" levels of dissolved oxygen in the water, which can be stressful to aquatic organisms, and "elevated" levels of bacteria, which can pose health hazards.

The Houston Advanced Research Center has been working with partners Shead Conservation Solutions and the U.S. Geological Survey on a project to gather and analyze data to characterize the watershed's environmental health. This work has laid the groundwork for further data-collection aimed at the creation of a watershed protection plan, which will help to identify sources of the water-quality issues of concern and develop pollution-control measures known as “best management practices” that target them..

The mainly rural nature of the watershed offers a rare opportunity to draft such a plan before extensive development occurs there, potentially impairing the bayou's health further.