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In This Issue:

Fall 2013

Seafood Consumption Advisory Update

1085 Participate in 2013 Bike Around the Bay

Guardian of the Bay Awards Luncheon




GBF Holds Inaugural Ladies Fishing Tournament


Bob Dempsey

Also Inside: Letter From Our President


San Jacinto River Waste Pits Update


Marsh Mania 2013


Drive & Discover Galveston Bay


Oyster Shell Recycling Program Expands


Bay Day 2013


Redfish Raft-Up 2013


Teaming Up and Cleaning Up Our Water 4 GBF Welcomes New Staff


It’s Workplace Giving Season


Spotlight on Volunteer Rebecca Olson


Galveston Bay: A Brief History of One of America’s Great Waters


alveston Bay is the most prominent geologic feature on the upper Texas coast. It is the state’s largest bay, covering about 600 square miles, situated in one of its most urbanized and industrialized areas. The positioning and viability of Houston can be traced to its proximity to Galveston Bay. Beyond this, the Galveston Bay watershed—or the area of land that drains into a given waterbody— is about 24,000 square miles, stretching from the Houston metropolitan area north along the Trinity River basin past the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Half the population of Texas currently lives in the Galveston Bay watershed. Yet few know of its worth and even fewer of its rich history. Galveston Bay is, by definition, an estuary—a semienclosed coastal body of water which has a free connection with the open sea and within which sea water mixes with fresh water from the land. In the case of Galveston Bay, it is where fresh water from the Trinity and San Jacinto Rivers and the extensive bayous and creeks of the “Bayou City” and surrounding areas mixes with the salty water of the Gulf of Mexico. Inflows of fresh water from rivers, bayous, and streams are the lifeblood of an estuary, bringing in nutrients that fuel the food chain and sediments to replenish our wetlands. Because of this,

estuaries are among the most productive ecosystems in the world. They are home to a huge amount of plant and animal life and can produce large harvests of recreational and commercial fish and shellfish. Ninety-five percent of commercially and recreationally important fisheries species in the Gulf of Mexico are dependent upon estuaries like Galveston Bay during some part of their life cycle. Galveston Bay is the most productive bay in Texas and one of the most productive bays in the country, trailing only Chesapeake Bay, which is eight times its size. Galveston Bay supports a wide array of human uses, including marine transportation, industrial, agricultural, fisheries, residential, recreational, and tourism. The Houston-Galveston region owes much of its economic viability to ports and shipping, and its area grew as a result of its proximity to good ports. The Port of Houston ranks first in the nation for waterborne commerce and is the second largest port in the United States, based on tonnage. The Galveston Bay area is the petrochemical production capital of the nation, and the second largest complex in the world. Approximately one-third of the nation’s petroleum refining occurs in the bay area. Agriculture mainly occurs on the eastern side of the bay, with Continued on page 7



G a l v e s t o n B a y F o u n d a ti o n

Bob Stokes President Ext. 211 Matthew Abernathy Conservation Programs Outreach Specialist Ext. 203 Rachel Barski Education Coordinator Ext. 219 Trey Bartsch Marketing Coordinator & Gazette Editor Ext. 208 Charlene Bohanon Water Quality Program Manager Ext. 215 Emily Demmeck Bike Around the Bay Coordinator Racheal Emig Database and Administrative Assistant Ext. 201 Emily Ford Volunteer Programs Coordinator Ext. 207 Rani Henderson Manager of Education Programs Ext. 212 Erik Hitt Oyster Shell Recycling Program Assistant

From Our President:

GBF Earns Land Trust Accreditation


am very pleased to announce that GBF was awarded the national distinction of land trust accreditation by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission this past summer. The Commission is an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, based in Washington, D.C. We are the seventh land trust in Texas to be awarded this distinction and only the second in the Houston area. This was a culmination of a process that began nearly five years ago with a directive to pursue accreditation from our board of directors. We completed several preliminary scoping efforts to determine if we were ready to apply for accreditation and finally applied in the summer of 2011. It was a long process, but well worth it.

We can now say conclusively that our land conservation efforts meet the highest standards in the nation.

Brady Johnson Wetland Permit Review Specialist Scott A. Jones Director of Advocacy Ext. 209 Nicole LeBlanc Grants Billing Specialist Katie McCann Water Quality Program Assistant Ext. 217 Sharon Roark Director of Development Ext. 204 Chris Sheldon Oyster Shell Recycling Assistant Matt Singer Conservation Lands Manager Ext. 206 Courtney Smith Vice President of Operations Ext. 214 Philip Smith Director of Conservation Ext. 210 Justine Townsend Chief Financial Officer Ext. 202 Michelle Vryn Membership and Developement Coordinator Ext. 213 Lee Anne Wilde Living Shorelines Program Manager Ex. 205

So what does it mean to be an accredited land trust? Fundamentally, it means that we comply with all the standards and practices of the Land Trust Alliance. We were required to submit extensive documentation about past land transactions and current policies and undergo a rigorous review by the Commission. Simply going through the process made us a better

organization, as we had to adopt several new policies and procedures to guide us going forward. We can now say conclusively that our land conservation efforts meet the highest standards in the nation. This allows Bob Stokes, Galveston Bay Foundation President us to continue working with local landowners to preserve our lands and heritage and ensure the health of Galveston Bay. As an accredited land trust, we bring more credibility to the table when speaking with landowners and prospective partners. To date, GBF has conserved over 3,300 acres of coastal habitat through fee simple acquisitions and conservation easements. We are working to increase that acreage substantially and hope to have over 5,000 total acres protected by the end of this year. Several conservation opportunities have arisen recently as a direct result of our new accreditation. Because accreditation provides us the springboard we need to implement our mission of preserving and protecting the natural resources of Galveston Bay and its tributaries, we are proud to present ourselves to the community as an accredited land trust.

Fall 2013


Seafood Consumption Advisory on Spotted Seatrout Removed for Most of Galveston Bay


n June 26th, the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) removed the seafood consumption advisory on spotted seatrout (speckled trout) for most of the Galveston Bay system, including a portion of Upper Galveston Bay and all of Trinity, Lower Galveston, East, West, Chocolate, Drum, Bastrop, and Christmas Bays. This large area is south of a line from Red Bluff Point to Five Mile Cut Marker to Houston Point in Upper Galveston Bay. According to the TDSHS, testing of speckled trout samples indicates that concentrations of dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), both of which are groups of toxic compounds, have decreased to acceptable levels and no longer pose a significant health risk. While this is truly a great development, not all of the news on the latest advisories was good. The advisory covering all species of fish and blue crab on the Houston Ship Channel,

San Jacinto River, and contiguous waters was extended from Highway 90 upstream to the Lake Houston Dam on the San Jacinto and from Lynchburg Ferry further downstream to Highway 146 (Fred Hartman Bridge) on the Houston Ship Channel. Thus, there is still much work to be done to further reduce risks from the consumption of seafood in the upper portion of Upper Galveston Bay, the Houston Ship Channel, and the San Jacinto River. We hope to see a long-term decrease in the concentrations of toxins in seafood as sources of these “legacy pollutants” are identified and eliminated. For almost three years, GBF has worked to ensure that a major dioxin hotspot, the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund site (SJRWP) on the San Jacinto River at Interstate 10, is cleaned up as fast as possible. GBF has worked with local, state, and federal agencies,

industry, and other non-profit organizations to ensure this site has been capped and eliminated as a source of dioxin to the bay and its seafood. We continue to work to ensure appropriate long-term clean-up of the site occurs and will work to uncover and clean up other abandoned waste pits or areas, such as Patrick Bayou on the Houston Ship Channel. For more information, please see GBF’s Seafood Consumption Advisory webpage at

Graphic courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife

San Jacinto River Waste Pits Site Update


he Galveston Bay Foundation continues its efforts to provide information to the public on the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site (SJRWP). The SJRWP is an abandoned waste pit on the west bank of the San Jacinto River immediately upstream of the Interstate 10 Bridge. The site contains paper mill wastes contaminated with dioxins, an extremely toxic family of compounds which can cause cancer and other serious illness in humans. It was placed in the U.S. EPA Superfund Program in 2008. As a part of the Superfund investigation and cleanup process, the Texas Department of State Health Services completed a report explaining the pathways that humans could be exposed to the dioxins from this site. They were: (1) direct contact with the waste material, (2) accidental ingestion of waste material, and (3) by eating seafood that has

been contaminated by the dioxin. Since the placement of an “armored cap” on the pits in 2011, the remaining pathway is through seafood consumption. And in fact, dioxins have been found in certain fish and crabs at concentrations which have prompted the state health department to issue seafood consumption advisories in Galveston Bay and its tidal tributaries, such as the San Jacinto River (see seafood.html for more on the seafood advisories, which are result of not only this site but from other sources of toxic materials). Currently, a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) is being performed by the responsible parties, McGinnis Industrial Maintenance Corporation and International Paper Company, under the direction of the U.S. EPA to address the nature and extent of contamination so that an appropriate clean

DATES TO REMEMBER Bravos for the Bay Volunteer Appreciation Event

Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Lakewood Yacht Club

Visit for more information on events

up remedy can be selected. Many technical reports are being produced by the responsible parties as required in an RI/FS. Through a grant from the EPA, GBF contracted with the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) to produce summary reviews of the technical reports, which we have placed on our SJRWP webpage at html. These summaries provide the layman with an explanation of the technical cleanup documents produced by the responsible parties. As the cleanup process continues, there will be additional opportunities to learn more at public meetings and to make your public comment on the proposed plan for the site cleanup, scheduled to be released in February 2014. There will be a minimum 30-day public comment period on the proposed cleanup, currently scheduled for a February/March time frame. You can stay abreast of the SJRWP cleanup schedule and meetings, read HARC’s summary documents, and learn more by visiting GBF’s SJRWP webpage at advocacy_sjrwp.html.

G a l v e s t o n B a y F o u n d a ti o n


Marsh Maniacs Celebrate National Estuaries Day

More than 140 volunteers get muddy to restore 1.1 acres of saltwater marsh habitat


he Galveston Bay Foundation was joined by more than 140 volunteers and supporters at Marsh Mania on Galveston Bay on Saturday, September 28. In celebration of National Estuaries Day, the volunteers planted smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) at marsh restoration sites in Chambers County and on Galveston Island. Marsh Mania is an annual GBF event that involves local citizens in hands-on marsh restoration activities while increasing their awareness and appreciation of Galveston Bay wetlands and the many services they provide. In fifteen years, more than 7,000 “Marsh Maniacs” have restored over 200 acres of wetlands around Galveston Bay.

National Estuaries Day is the nation’s largest volunteer event for estuaries in our country, and this year marks its 25th anniversary. This year’s events focused on the connections between our estuaries and our economy. With growing concern about our nation’s financial health, it is important to recognize the value that protecting and restoring our estuaries delivers to our national economy. In fact, coastal counties provide more than half the nation’s gross domestic product and support more than 69 million jobs--that’s about 40% of U.S. employment. National Estuaries Day is supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Restore America’s Estuaries, the National Estuarine Research Reserve Association, the Association of National Estuary Programs, and countless other associations and agencies.

Marsh Mania 2013 is made possible thanks to our sponsors, including:

GBF wishes to thank all of our volunteers, partners, and sponsors who participated in the 2013 Marsh Mania events.

Comings and Goings Drive & Discover Galveston Bay! GBF is excited to offer the newly released Galveston Bay Drive & Discover Guide, a publication that blends both human and natural history of Galveston Bay into an easy-to-understand guide for visiting points of historic, geologic, and environmental interest. The Guide organizes these sites into seven distinct areas that can be visited in sequence or individually. The Guide features: • • • • •

More than 55 sites Seven geographic areas Maps of each area with the locations of each site within Full descriptions and driving directions to each site Beautiful photographs by notable photographers Jim Olive and Andrew Hancock

Whether you live on or near Galveston Bay or are just here visiting, the hope is that by visiting these sites, you’ll have fun as well as learn about Galveston Bay. We hope this helps pique your curiosity and provides some insight into what makes Galveston Bay such a special and vital resource to this region.

The Galveston Bay Drive & Discover Guide is available in three formats, including a newly released mobile app! The mobile app is available for download for FREE on both Apple and Android devices (search for “Galveston Bay). Hard copies of the Guide are available at local chambers of commerce and visitors centers. To request a free copy from GBF, please email gbf@ To access a digital version of the Guide, please visit publications_ddguide.html.

Oyster Shell Recycling Program Expands Over the past several months, GBF’s oyster shell recycling program has recruited more restaurants into the program. We are pleased to announce that we are currently recycling shell from five area restaurants

and working to increase that number as the program moves forward. Along with our original partnership with Tommy’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar in Clear Lake, GBF now also has shell recycling partnerships with Topwater Grill in San Leon and the Kemah Boardwalk locations of the Aquarium Restaurant, Flying Dutchman, and Landry’s Seafood House. Between January and September 2013, GBF collected over 55 tons of shell—more than we collected in all of 2012. The program has reclaimed over 130 tons of shell since it began in 2011.

When you’re driving around the bay area, keep your eyes peeled for Pearl, our new Oyster Shell Recycling vehicle!

Fall 2013


A Successful Day of Celebrating the Bay! A Fun, Educational Time Had by All at Bay Day 2013



festival of local wildlife, upbeat environmental music, kids’ crafts and baythemed games greeted over 4,800 visitors to the Kemah Boardwalk on Saturday, June 1st as we celebrated Bay Day 2013 in honor of the vital Galveston Bay estuary.

Bay Day 2013 is made possible thanks to our sponsors, including:

A variety of organizations and companies participated with 39 different exhibits to showcase their roles in preserving Galveston Bay and to educate the community in fun, interactive ways. Curious youngsters were awe-struck by baby alligators at the Baytown Nature Center booth, adults and children alike tested their luck and wits at the nitty gritty Water Quality booth, brave audience members danced the dragon fly dance with Billy B. on stage, and families created keepsake fish print t-shirts to remember their experience by. Additional family fun activities were enjoyed at booths hosted by Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Houston Zoo, Trees for Houston, the Galveston Bay Estuary Program, and many more! Over 80 dedicated volunteers supported efforts among multiple booths and around the festival, ensuring a successful, fun day for all.

Redfish Raft-up 2013 For the ninth year, Redfish Raft-up attracted hundreds of bay enthusiasts, music lovers, and GBF supporters who partied at Redfish Island in Galveston Bay on Sunday, September 1. The event is held each year to bring awareness to Galveston Bay, with a percentage of the profits being donated directly to GBF. Star Fleet Yachts again sold out the Star Gazer yacht and cruised a group of partiers out to Redfish Island where everyone enjoyed the music of talented local musician, Kelly McGuire. GBF would like to thank Star Fleet Yachts for their long-time support, as well as Maritime Sanitation, the Port of Houston Authority, and Dow Chemical for sponsoring this year’s event.

Teaming Up and Cleaning Up Our Water

GBF formed several Clean Water Partnerships and launched new water quality outreach programs this year in order to build a network of citizen advocates and reduce pollution entering Galveston Bay. These partnerships have helped us maximize positive impacts for the bay. The following are highlights from 2013: Marina Del Sol collaborated with a local graduate student and GBF’s Water Monitoring Team to conduct a bacteria sampling project in the marina, which provided GBF with valuable data and resulted in them receiving the Clean Texas Marina of the Year Award for 2013!

The City of Nassau Bay worked with GBF to launch community rain barrel workshops to reduce runoff pollution and conserve freshwater. So far, over 100 rain barrels have been distributed which is equivalent to an average of 117,000 gallons of water saved per year! GBF would like to commend all of these partners for a job well done and thank all of our sponsors for making these programs possible. Stay tuned to GBF’s Facebook page and website to learn how you can get involved in these programs in 2014!

Pelican Rest Marina helped us launch the GBF AquaKids Class, which is a hands-on program for 1st – 5th graders to learn about where water pollution comes from, what they can do to help, and how nature helps keep our water clean! Ball High School, the City of Galveston, and GBF volunteers helped us teach citizens about the impacts of stormwater runoff by installing over 200 storm drain markers on the island!

AquaKids making Grease Monster jars to keep cooking grease from clogging pipes and overflowing sewage into the bay.


G a l v e s t o n B a y F o u n d a ti o n

GBF Welcomes New Staff Michelle Vryn joined the GBF team in May 2013 as the Membership and Development Coordinator. She studied environmental anthropology at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) where she earned a M.A. degree focusing on the long-term conservation strategies among private Texas landowners. As GBF’s Membership and Development Coordinator, Michelle manages public and member outreach and helps raise funds to support GBF’s program areas. She is also the staff liaison to GBF’s young professionals group, The Cast. Before joining the Foundation, Michelle worked for external relations at UTSA and participated in her alma mater’s first capital campaign. Outside of the office, Michelle enjoys hiking, live music, and spontaneous adventures.

It’s Workplace Giving Season!


all is the time when many companies give their employees an opportunity to make workplace giving decisions. We’d be honored if you’d consider the Galveston Bay Foundation as one of your designees for workplace giving. These funds are crucial in providing consistent funding throughout the year and are often matched by employers, giving us even greater ability to preserve and protect Galveston Bay! Examples of campaigns where we are listed include: • • • • • • • • • •

Shell HERO Program Chevron Humankind Accenture Employee Giving Campaign Port of Houston Combined Charities Campaign City of Austin Employees (COACCC) Code: 1813 City of Houston Employees (HCMC) Code: 1484 Houston Independent School District Employees (HISD) Code: 192 State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC) Code: 035599 Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) Code: 182557 and many, many more…

In many cases we are listed directly and through our workplace giving partner, EarthShare of Texas. If you work for a company that does not list GBF and you would like to see us included, please feel free to call (281) 332-3381 x211. Thanks very much for considering this crucial support!

1,085 Cyclists Join GBF for 2013 Bike Around the Bay The annual event benefits projects that preserve wetlands, protect natural habitat, and enhance the water quality of the bay


or the first time in the ride’s seven year history, over 1,000 registered riders joined GBF for 2013 Bike Around the Bay on October 12-13. Cyclists began their ride with a soggy start on Saturday, October 12 from Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, TX, before embarking on a scenic ride that passed by the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge and through High Island--the highest point on the Gulf Coast between the Yucatan Peninsula and Alabama. Cyclists then rode down the Bolivar Peninsula before stopping at Stingaree Restaurant for a picturesque lunch overlooking East Galveston Bay. After crossing the Houston Ship Channel on the Bolivar Ferry, cyclists ended Saturday at Moody Gardens, cheered by supporters and volunteers as they crossed the finish line after their 94-mile journey. A festive dinner outside on the shores of Galveston Bay with Tahitian dancers provided cyclists with an enjoyable atmosphere. The second day brought riders over the Galveston Causeway, through Texas City along the Texas City levee, through the bayside towns of San Leon, Bacliff, Kemah and Seabrook. Lunch was provided at Sylvan Beach in LaPorte where volunteers from CenterPoint Energy provided food prepped by longtime Bike Around the Bay supporter Greg Busacca and friends. Following lunch riders met one of the most memorable and challenging features of the ride, the Fred Hartman Bridge, before ending the second day back in Mont Belvieu, where the ride started. In addition to the full, 180-mile route around Galveston Bay, 166 cyclists chose to ride the one-day, 94-mile route, an option new to the ride this year.

The proceeds benefit projects that preserve wetlands, protect natural habitat, and enhance the water quality of the bay for present users and for posterity. While riders are required to raise a minimum amount for GBF, many don’t stop there. Russ Boullion was the top fundraiser for the third straight year bringing in nearly $10,500 for GBF this year! Many riders, such as Aubin Phillips, ride with the goal of helping to improve the state of the bay. “Everyone impacts the health of Galveston Bay, and I’m taking a step further to spread awareness. Do you remember going to Galveston as a kid? Eating fish on the Strand? I do, and I want to ensure this is a possibility for generations to come...every donation helps create a healthier bay.” Over 250 hardworking volunteers supported cyclists throughout the entire route with a variety of tasks including providing food and snacks, cheering cyclists, guiding bicycle traffic, and coordinating support logistics. Bike Around the Bay is made possible through the generous support of Shell, the ride’s title sponsor, and major gifts from additional ride sponsors. Other long-time supporters continue to help GBF implement initiatives to make Bike Around the Bay an environmentally friendly event. For the third consecutive year, Reliant Energy retired 500 metric tons of carbon on the Chicago Climate Exchange to offset the carbon generated from Bike Around the Bay. GBF would like to thank the many sponsors, participants, volunteers, and supporters for a successful 2013 Bike Around the Bay. Continued on page 9

Fall 2013

GBF Recognizes 2013 Honorees at Guardian of the Bay Award Luncheon


he Galveston Bay Foundation’s 2013 Guardian of the Bay Award Luncheon on September 25 honored CenterPoint Energy, Chambers-Liberty Counties Navigation District, Bill King, and Tom Tollett for their commitment to preserving and protecting the natural resources of Galveston Bay. Over 500 luncheon guests were privileged to enjoy keynote remarks by Mrs. Laura Bush, who spoke about the importance of conserving Texas’s natural heritage and, in particular, Galveston Bay. Luncheon guests joined GBF staff and board members in celebrating GBF’s recent accreditation by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. As part of the festivities, Master of Ceremonies Frank Billingsley, Chief Meteorologist with KPRC Local2 presented

GBF with a proclamation from Harris County Judge Ed Emmett in appreciation for the Galveston Bay Foundation’s tireless efforts to protect the natural resources of Galveston Bay, proclaiming September 25, 2013, to be Galveston Bay Foundation Day. GBF wishes to give special thanks to Guardian Sponsors Kirby Corporation and Kathrine G. McGovern/McGovern Foundation. We also appreciate the generous support of Protector Sponsors Apache Corporation, NRG Energy, Satterfield & Pontikes Construction, Inc., and Cynthia and Don Stevenson/Madlin Stevenson Foundation, along with all the other participants who made this year’s luncheon such a great success.

GBF was honored to have Mrs. Laura Bush as the keynote speaker of the Luncheon.

Left: (left to right) Bob Stokes, Bailey Dalton-Binion, Laura Bush, Cynthia PickettStevenson, and Sharon Roark RIght: Master of Ceremonies, Frank Billingsley (right) presents GBF President Bob Stokes (left) with a proclamation from Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.

SPOTLIGHT ON VOLUNTEER: Rebecca Olson G BF would like to recognize Rebecca Olson for her outstanding office volunteer support. Rebecca has provided assistance to nearly every employee at GBF at one time or another. This summer, she helped GBF’s water quality team compile pledge and testing data from workshops. She also prepared educational goody bags that were given out to youth participants at the summer Aqua Kids class, the Girl Scout storm drain marking project, and the kids’ fishing tournament at Pelican Rest Marina. GBF’s development team also benefitted from Rebecca’s aid when she helped put together the flavorful and informative Oyster Tasting event bags. Any time there was a large event or mail-out this summer, Rebecca never hesitated to provide assistance. Many Galveston Bay Foundation employees describe Rebecca as a very kind person, very efficient, and

always willing to help. When asked to share her thoughts about her involvement with the Foundation, Rebecca stated that “after a long career with the space program, [she] wanted to get involved with down-to-earth environmental issues. [The Galveston Bay Foundation] works in so many different areas helping to preserve and protect the local coastal and marine environment, and it has been a privilege to help if only in small ways.”

In the opinion of staff at GBF, no volunteer effort on Rebecca’s part has been small. Thank you, Rebecca, for the HUGE amount of assistance you have provided around the Galveston Bay Foundation office!



G a l v e s t o n B a y F o u n d a ti o n

Galveston Bay: Preserving One of America’s Great Waters (Continued from cover)

the most important products being livestock, rice, sorghum, soybeans, and corn. Commercial and recreational fishing are also very important to the region. According to NOAA’s State of the Coast website, in 2010, Texas ranked first in the nation for commercial catch of important species such as brown shrimp and second in the nation for white shrimp, Eastern oysters, black drum, and red snapper, among others. Recreational boating in this area remains popular, with Galveston Bay having the third highest concentration of privately-owned marinas in the nation. Recreational hobbies such as birding are popular in and around Galveston Bay, and people come from all over the world to witness bird migrations in the spring. All of these facts, figures, and statistics provide a snapshot of what Galveston Bay is and of its importance today. But what were the geologic, cultural, societal, political, and economic factors that put it where it is today? The Galveston Bay we know and enjoy had its beginnings following the last Ice Age less than 18,000 years ago. As the last Ice Age came to an end, the Earth warmed, Pleistocene mammals which roamed this area became extinct, the ice sheets withdrew, sea levels rose, and the shoreline moved to near-present locations, all over many thousands of years. The longshore currents along the new shoreline deposited sediments, eventually creating the sandbar we now know as Galveston Island about 5,000 years ago and Bolivar Peninsula about 2,500 years ago. Behind these barriers, Galveston Bay was formed. Fossilized bone and stone artifacts uncovered in the area date back to Paleo-Indian residents between 14,000 and 8,000 years ago. These nomadic peoples used the bay area as a hunting grounds for life’s necessities. Galveston Bay’s earliest known named inhabitants, the Akokisa (or Orcoquisa) tribes, lived here between 7,000 and 5,000 years ago. Other Native American tribes that seasonally frequented included the Karankawa, Coco, and Tonkawa tribes. The first

Freshwater from creeks, rivers, and bayous are the lifeblood for Galveston Bay, providing nutrients and sediments that fuel its diverse ecosystems.

European account of the natives of the Texas coast occurred with Cabeza de Vaca getting stranded here in 1528, and later writing about his experiences with the natives when back in Spain in 1542. Though Spain laid claim to the Western Hemisphere by right of Columbus’ voyages, it was not long before it had to defend its claimed territories from other Europeans, namely the French, in the 1600s and 1700s. Both Spanish and French explorers made efforts to map the bay. The earliest known map of Galveston Bay is the French map produced by La Harpe in 1721. In 1783, the Spanish Governor of Louisiana, Bernardo de Galvez, commissioned Jose Antonio Evia to survey the entire Gulf coast. Evia named both a bay and an island on the upper Texas coast for his patron, Galvez. The 1799 map produced as a result of Evia’s surveys and notes show for the first time the label of “Galveston Bay.” It was around this time in history that the use of the newly named Galveston Bay began to transition from that of a food source to that of a place of settlement and colonization. With the arrival of European and Anglo American privateers, adventurers, and filibusters in the early 1800s, the annual visits by native, nomadic tribes greatly declined. The privateer Jean Lafitte arrived in Galveston from New Orleans around 1817 and set up a settlement called Campeachy. The hurricane of 1818 destroyed this settlement, and Lafitte was gone by 1820. In 1822, Galveston Bay was a focus for Anglo American settlement under colonies established by Stephen F. Austin. For the first time, the bay became a main conduit for water transportation to trade goods as steamboats began to serve Galveston Bay. New colonists established settlements such as that of Harrisburg, landings such as that at Morgan’s Point, and Lynch’s ferry. The convenient locations of Houston and Galveston led them to rise to prominence as important Texas cities in 1836 and 1837. The Galveston Bay area played an integral part in Texas’ independence from Mexico. The deciding battle was fought at the confluence of the San Jacinto River and Buffalo Bayou, at what is now known as the San Jacinto Battleground. Nine years after winning its independence from Mexico, Texas was annexed to the United States in 1845. This was a prosperous time for the bay area, with the importance of the maritime industry reflected in Galveston being identified by the 1850 U.S. Census as the largest town in Texas with 4,177 people. Galveston Bay’s main function at this time was that of a transportation system, and many navigational improvements were made to the bay, including updated charts, the deepening and straightening of

The Galveston Bay watershed stretches to north of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and houses half of the population of Texas. Image courtesy Houston Advanced Research Center.

Buffalo Bayou, a lightship, lighted beacons, and eventually the Bolivar Point lighthouse. Though a rivalry for dominance had formed between Houston and Galveston, the onset of the Civil War briefly united residents of these two cities in support of the Confederacy. Union vessels began a blockade of Galveston in July 1861 and continued through the end of the war in 1865. For most of this time, the Confederates maintained control over Galveston, and blockade runners were successful in bypassing Union ships in getting supplies in and out of Galveston. Following the war, the commercial rivalry between the port cities of Houston and Galveston resumed, and exploitation of the Galveston Bay area’s resources sharply increased. Deep water channel dredging to Houston occupied the decades to follow. The Corps of Engineers initiated a series of channel dredging projects as well as construction of a pair of jetties into the Gulf of Mexico—a project which changed the Bay forever. The jetties were eventually completed in 1897, with the south jetty extending 6.5 miles and the north jetty 5 miles into the Gulf. The jetties lived up to their intended purpose; the channel into the Bay reached 26 feet deep, and the City of Galveston benefited immensely. Galveston maintained its status as the largest city in Texas in 1880, with 22,248 persons; Houston was but the third largest with 16,513. Railroad building in other parts of Texas elevated the populations of Dallas and San Antonio, which soon bypassed Galveston. Plans for a Houston Ship Channel were in play, however, which would soon prove to end any commercial rivalry that existed between Houston and Galveston and solidify Houston’s fate as a major port city and the state’s most populous city. The great hurricane

Fall 2013 of 1900, which devastated Galveston and killed an estimated 6,000 people, resulted in many Galveston businesses relocating inland. The Houston Ship Channel project created an 18foot channel and a turning basin by 1908, but the ever-present need for bigger and deeper won out, and by 1914, the Houston Ship Channel was deepened to 25 feet deep. Concurrently, Texas City created a 25-foot channel into its new port and an extensive dike into the Bay to protect its new channel. The Texas City dike would later prove to have significant impacts to the ecology of West Bay. In fact, this was the theme of the era—manipulation of the natural features of Galveston Bay to rapidly develop and protect transportation channels to benefit the economy. In the early 1900s, the petroleum era in Galveston Bay was born on the shores of Tabbs Bay. The first oil refinery was constructed on Goose Creek in 1919, by the Humble Oil Company (later Exxon). They named the landing Baytown, and built the refinery and a town for employees west of Goose Creek. Industrialization continued in the Galveston Bay area, with various oil and chemical companies attracted to the area for its deep water channels and ports, wide open spaces, underground sources of fresh water, and general lack of regulations. Demand for more and larger barge access resulted in the deepening (and widening) of the Houston Ship Channel to 34 feet in the 1930s, to 36 feet in the 1940s, and to 40 feet in the 1950s. Presently, the Houston Ship Channel is a 52-mile long channel dredged to 45 feet deep. Beginning in about 1910, the public began to be aware of a “polluted” Galveston Bay. They noted oily water and declines in fishing and began to blame the industries. Two major projects that had the potential to have massive impacts to the Bay began their planning stages in the 1950s

and 1960s. The first was the Wallisville Lake Project, a plan to dam the lower Trinity River south of Wallisville, and the second was the next phase of deepening and widening the Houston Ship Channel. Both projects were subject to the new review processes put in place by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. In accordance with the new policy, the Corps of Engineers had to put together environmental impact statements (EIS) for these projects. Both projects met much opposition from the public, including fishermen and shrimpers, landowners, and other citizens of the Bay area. In fact, it was from the gathering and discussions of such concerned citizens that the Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF) was born. In 1987, forty individuals became the charter members and incorporators of the Galveston Bay Foundation, a new environmental nonprofit corporation focused on the interests of Galveston Bay. Over the last several decades, the Bay has continued to change. There have been gains and losses in areas such as water quality; the extent of important habitats such as coastal prairie, coastal marsh, seagrass meadows, and oyster reefs; and levels of freshwater inflows. Overall, water quality is much better than it was in the 1970s when the Clean Water Act was put into law and placed strict regulations on industrial and municipal discharges. But today, we still battle issues such as poor water quality in creeks and bayous, illegal discharges of boater wastes, and seafood consumption advisories resulting from legacy pollutants that remain in the system to remind us of our past transgressions against the Bay. The trends of extreme losses of important coastal habitats, too, have seen change. Historically, these habitats suffered and declined due to development, land subsidence resulting from groundwater and oil extraction, shoreline erosion, and poor water quality.


Emergent wetlands, for instance, were estimated to have declined by 35,100 acres between 1953 and 1989. Land subsidence in the Galveston Bay area has been reduced to near background levels due to a switch from the reliance on groundwater to surface water and the work of the Harris-Galveston Coastal Subsidence District. This has afforded groups like the Galveston Bay Foundation the opportunity to restore wetland habitats that previously sunk and drowned and protect the vulnerable shorelines from erosion. Since the early- to mid-1990s when the Foundation began doing restoration work, it has restored over 620 acres of marsh and (to a lesser extent) seagrass habitat, protected over 16 miles of Galveston Bay shorelines from erosion, and placed nearly 3,400 acres of quality habitat into permanent conservation. But the job is not done. The Galveston Bay Foundation and other like-minded organizations, agencies, and individuals continue to diligently work every day to protect the resource that is Galveston Bay, one of our nation’s great waters. History—particularly recent history—has been hard on our bay, but given the right stewardship and care as well as the bay’s natural resiliency, we can find a balance between meeting our human needs and having a healthy bay ecosystem for all present users and for those who follow. This is a condensed version of an article that appeared in the spring issue of Houston History magazine. To view the full article with references, please visit http:// galveston-bay/. By Courtney Smith, Vice President of Operations, Galveston Bay Foundation

The Galveston Bay area played an integral part in Texas’ independence from Mexico. The deciding battle was fought at the confluence of the San Jacinto River and Buffalo Bayou, at what is now called the San Jacinto Battleground. The battleground is also home to the Battleship USS Texas, the second ship of the United States Navy.

Photo by Lou Vest


G a l v e s t o n B a y F o u n d a ti o n

A big thank you to our top 20 fundraisers in 2013! Russ Boullion Bob Stokes Michael McKenzie Matthew Hartzell Glenn Fuller Scott Aspelin Peter Mark Madeline Woods Gary Russell Dan Traylor Jeffery Kowalik Allan Torregrossa Jeff Myerson Julienne Sugarek Dave Garred Theodore Brooks John Hasley Courtenay Clifford David Freeman Jessica Locheed And a special thanks to GBF President Bob Stokes, GBF Board of Directors Member Jeff Myerson, GBF Board of Directors Member and Cast Committe Member Clayton Forswall, and GBF Water Quality Monitor Gary Russell for participating in this year’s ride.

Bike Around the Bay 2013 is made possible thanks to our sponsors:

Fall 2013


GBF Holds Inaugural Ladies Fishing Tournament Seventy participate in Ladies Casting for Conservation fishing tournament with goal of promoting awareness about conserving bay habitat


he Galveston Bay Foundation proudly hosted its inaugural “Ladies Casting for Conservation” fishing tournament on Saturday, July 27 at Stingaree Restaurant and Marina in Crystal Beach, TX. Thanks go to Bolivar Peninsula resident, Debby Ward, who has dreamt for years of hosting a ladies fishing tournament on Bolivar. Debby approached the Galveston Bay Foundation with her idea and teamed up with GBF staff to organize and host the event. For our part, GBF welcomed the opportunity to promote awareness about the importance of conserving and protecting Galveston Bay and the critical habitat the bay provides for fish and other wildlife. “The event was a great way of promoting our mission and initiatives to recreational users of our bay,” said GBF President, Bob Stokes. The pre-tournament activities kicked off on Friday night with a social and captains’ meeting followed by live music provided by Stingaree Restaurant. The tournament itself began at 6:00 am Saturday morning and culminated with the weigh-in, a buffet meal, and awards ceremony Saturday afternoon. “We had a great time!” was

a comment expressed by many enthusiastic participants. Twenty-two teams entered the tournament, accounting for over 60 registered anglers. Each team consisted of three ladies, participating in either the Guided or Non-Guided category. Participants supported the Foundation through registration fees and donations from over 70 team sponsors. GBF was thrilled with the fundraising efforts of the fishing teams, many of whom spent weeks encouraging donations from family, friends, and businesses. Event and team sponsors together contributed over $30,000 in revenue for GBF. Proceeds will be used in GBF’s various initiatives to improve the state of the bay and promote healthy fish populations. “Ladies Casting for Conservation” was made possible through the generous support of event sponsors, including Easy Lift, Texas Bottle Bill, Stingaree Restaurant and Marina, Marine Fueling Services, Texas Marine, Bushnell, Classic Auto Group – Galveston, The Golf Car Connection, Roger A. Soape, Inc., Eco-Smart Power, and Swede’s Beach Properties. Special acknowledgment goes to the team Reel Hookers who brought in over $5,200 in team sponsorship dollars, all collected in less than one week. As the top fundraising team, they were awarded an offshore fishing trip and three pairs of Bushnell marine binoculars.

Tournament Results: Stringer - Guided 1st - 50 Shades of Bay 2nd - Backlash Baybes 3rd - Fishing Femmes Stringer - Non-Guided 1st - Saltwater Gypsies 2nd - Reel Lucky Ladies 3rd - Saltwater Cowboy Fishin’ Honies Bolivar Slam Reel Fishing Girls

Heaviest Redfish Carmen Comeaux (Reel Fishing Girls) Heaviest Flounder Patti Gilmore (Red’s Girls and Alfred Jr.) Top Fundraising The Reel Hookers The Ya Ya’s Red’s Girls and Alfred Jr.

Heaviest Trout Angela Klausner (Fishing Femmes)

Ladies Casting for Conservation is made possible thanks to our sponsors, including:

Left : (left to right) Janis Lowe, Margi Chase and Elizabeth Petit of Team Mother and Fish Reunion. Right: (left to right) Lauren Werner, Samantha McBroom and Kelsi Wegner of Backlash Baybes show their catch.

(left to right) Carol Wheeler, Shelley Chesser, and Debby Ward of Saltwater Gypsies took 1st place non-guided stringer category.

(left to right) Laura Wolfford, Barbara Trahan, and Doris Schulin of Fifty Shades of Bay won 1st place in the guided stringer category.

(left to right) Judy Plaia, Susan Johnson and Julie Radley of the Reel Hookers were the top fundraisers bringing in more than $5,200 for GBF!

GALVESTON BAY FOUNDATION 17330 Highway 3 Webster, TX 77598 p: 281.332.3381 f: 281.332.3153

Photos in this issue of the GBF Gazette contributed by: Gene Fisseler Andrew Hancock Lou Vest Bill Dempsey GBF Staff Hugh Hargrave

GBF is a 501(c)(3) organization affiliated with EarthShare of Texas and with Restore America’s Estuaries.

GBF Gazette underwriting is provided by our valued partner, the Port of Houston Authority.

Fall 2013 Gazette  
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