Water Grand Challenges: Coastal Water Management in Texas
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The Texascoastal zone is the area “seaward of the facility designation line, three marine leagues into the Gulf of Mexico”.1 More than 3,300 miles of estuaries and bays and 367 miles of beach comprise the Texas coastline.2 Maintaining coastal water quality and quantity in Texas is vital to insuring the longevity of key industries such as fisheries management, tourism and recreation, and coastal agriculture. Fluctuations in water quality parameters resulting from nonpoint source pollution can adversely affect estuarine ecosystems, putting wildlife populations and coastal industry at risk. Maintaining sufficient water quantity for coastal watersheds has also inspired debate and speculation in recent years. Over-allocation of water rights for agricultural, municipal, and industrial purposes may limit freshwater flow to coastal wetlands where endangered species such as the Whooping Crane feed and breed.3 In order to maintain coastal development, the Coastal Coordination Council (CCC) was founded in 1991 through the Texas Coastal Program under the General Land Office (GLO). Until 2010, the CCC was responsible for distributing federal funding through the Texas Coastal Management Program (CMP) to regional and statewide projects designed to maintain coastal health and stewardship.1 A review of the CCC conducted by the Texas Sunset Commission in 2010 led to the abolishment of the Council. Responsibilities formerly associated with the CCC were given to the Texas CMP under the GLO as of January 1, 2012.4
The GLO is the primary state agency charged with regulating the coastal water programs in Texas. However, water quality standards, wildlife, and fisheries management for water associated estuarine environments and wetlands are regulated through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). The TCEQ in conjunction with the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB) is the regulatory agency responsible for monitoring and managing water quality in Texas. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is the agency responsible for managing boating, fishing, hunting, recreational use of the natural resources on the coast.