Author Topic: Dredge Dumping in West Galveston Bay  (Read 1697 times)

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CarpMan

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Dredge Dumping in West Galveston Bay
« on: December 20, 2011, 08:43:37 AM »
Apparently there is some dredging of the ship channel going on at the moment in west galveston bay and the spoil material is being pumped over the spoil islands on top of the grass flats in the bay. This was spotted by local anglers and has been reported to the relevant Galveston Bay agencies to try and find out why this is happening and how it was approved. Word is that some of the grass flats are now filled in and dry land!!

You can find some more details here http://2coolfishing.com/ttmbforum/showthread.php?t=384647 and I have contacted GBF myself and as soon as I hear anything more I will post it here.
Matt

CarpMan

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Re: Dredge Dumping in West Galveston Bay
« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2011, 08:44:11 AM »
Meanwhile if anyone else in the club hears anything about this please post it here

CarpMan

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Re: Dredge Dumping in West Galveston Bay
« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2011, 09:42:54 AM »
To update everyone on what is happening here.  This concerns the grass flats on the north side of West Galveston Bay that several of our club members regularly fish and that hold some great fish, is usually very clear and is/was a slowly recovering example of that the bay used to be like before pollution and several other factors killed off most of the grass. This grass seems to have seeded its self from plantings elsewhere in the bay and has grown very well in the time since Hurricane Ike

The Core of Engineers is dredging the ICW as part of their normal dredging program using a permiting system that was approved several years ago when the grass was much much smaller in extent. They are operating under the Laguna Madre seagrass window from November to March when they are allowed to dump a thin layer of sediment over the sea grass while it is in winter dormancy. This thin layer is actually supposed to help the grass regrow. However it would appear that the contractor employed by the COE is dumping a great deal more than a thin layer as reports show the flats are burried under 6" to 1ft of sediment.  Worryingly no repeat environmental survey has been done since that original approval and most of the agencies involved appear to have no knowledge of the current extent of the grass flats. According to the contractor he has 6 miles of dredging and dumping to do in this area over the winter.   Current guesses by the people in that area is that more than 34acres of flats are now covered up. This is a federally approved contract and is technically legal which means it is going to be almost impossible to shut down. Best we can hope for is getting the COE to pay for some restoration work after the job is finished and to maybe push them to conduct a new survey for future work. The discussion on the 2cool fishing link above gives lots of details from the people involved in trying to sort this out and phone numbers to call to harass the responsible parties. It does seem that the COE and other agencies have noticed the big response from local fishermen and other concerend people. Some of the area guides are also trying to organize media coverage to bring this to more people's attention.

Have any of our club members had a chance to go and check this out first hand?

Matt

CarpMan

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Re: Dredge Dumping in West Galveston Bay
« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2011, 10:03:22 AM »
Here is a copy of my email correspondence with the COE on this issue:
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

Good morning Mr. Blyth,

Thank you for taking the time to submit this inquiry. I will forward these questions to our project manager and ask that she provide you with a detailed response.

Please let me know if you have any questions or additional concerns.

Sincerely,

Sandra Arnold, APR+M
Chief, Public Affairs
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District
Office:  (409) 766-3005
Blackberry:  (409) 502-9150
Web:  http://www.swg.usace.army.mil
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/GalvestonDistrict
DVIDS:  http://www.dvidshub.net/units/USACE-GD
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/usacegalveston


-----Original Message-----
From: Matt Blyth [mailto:carpman_1@yahoo.com]
Sent: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 11:17 PM
To: Public Affairs, Galveston District Corps of Engineers
Subject: Current Dredging Operations in West Galveston Bay

Hello

I am writing to you on behalf of Texas Flyfishers of Houston, a  Houston based non-profit organization associated with the Federation of Fly Fishers (www.texasflyfishers.org) and also as a concerned individual and Houston area resident. I have been following the progress of the dredging operations currently ongoing in the ICWW on the north side of West Galveston Bay with great concern. I am sure you have been bombarded with emails over the last few days asking for information on why the dredging material is being dumped where and how it is, however hopefully you will have time to reply to my questions and concerns.

I have been reading the publicly available Environmental Assessment done for the proposed new Beneficial Use of Dredged Material zones on the north side of the ICWW published by the COE in February 2007. In this document you propose developing a new material dumping zone (PA-62A) on the north side of the ICWW with the purpose of restoring and maintaining the marshland. In this report you state: "The no action alternative is continued use of the existing emergent unconfined PA No. 62 (Figure 2). This alternative remains an available option; however, use of this alternative would result in continued discharge of dredged material into West Bay. Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) is colonizing the bay margin along this PA; however, continued use of PA 62 will occasionally be necessary to prevent the land from disappearing due to erosion. If all of the dredged material from the adjacent reach of channel was to be discharged into this area, as is the historical and current practice, adverse impacts to the SAV would not be minimized. More importantly, beneficial uses of the dredged material described in this EA would not be realized. The intrusion of saline water into the marshes would continue unabated unless action is taken to impede it. Implementation of other suitable measures would not be as cost-effective as the preferred alternative." My first question therefore is why, when you have publicly stated that using the new proposed dumping zone would be better on all counts, has the COE made the decision to continue using the existing dumping zones (PA-62 and PA-63) as stated in your December 21st News Release (No 121103) rather than the new beneficial use zone PA-62A? According to the report the COE has been aware of the newly developing seagrass beds on the existing PA-62 and PA-63 locations since the EA was conducted and is also aware that the use of these locations does not minimize the impact to the grasses, as is a stated aim of the Corps' activities.

From what I can gather the use of the PA-62 and PA-63 locations has been approved since the Final Environmental Statement (EIS) for Maintenance Dredging, Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, Texas Section -- Main Channel and Tributary Channels (USACE, 1975). I would like to know how often you are obligated to repeat the EIS for these areas to allow for changing conditions and when the last one was performed? Please can you point me towards the documents for any EIS conducted on these areas?

Lastly I would also like to know where I can find the COE's studies of the effects of dredged material type and thickness on seagrass beds and what thickness of dredged material the COE considers the absolute safe maximum to ensure survival of the seagrass, even during the dormant period? I am sure that you are currently aware that the thickness of dredged material placed on the current PA-63 location is so deep that it is causing considerable doubt amongst local residents that any of the seagrass and oyster beds will survive at all. Therefore I would also like to know if a COE inspector has personally been out to the current dredge dumping location, has measured the sediment level over the complete zone and has pronounced it to be within the COE's benchmarked limits for seagrass survival? If not, when will this occur and if these limits are exceed then what plans does the COE have in place to restore the seagrass beds to acceptable conditions?

I look forward to your reply
Sincerely
Matt Blyth
832 444 4206

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE


Dave Kelly

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rr

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Re: Dredge Dumping in West Galveston Bay
« Reply #5 on: December 25, 2011, 01:03:56 PM »
Matt thanks for jumping on there ass for this intolerable action ,stay on em cowboy !!! Ray

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Re: Dredge Dumping in West Galveston Bay
« Reply #6 on: December 26, 2011, 08:55:30 AM »
What gets me if a private individule was responsible for this he would be hanged in Federal court and made a scape goat for everything else wrong in the world!  But since it appears the feds are the culprit here...oh well yawn yawn.  Relying on an enviromental impact studies done back in the mid seventies when they were still free dumping PCB and heavy metals into our bayous and bays is a joke.  Balancing an mega ecosystem such as Galveston Bay is no easy trick and for our Corps of Engineers to turn a blind eye to what is going on is criminal!  But you know who has cut budgets that would directly impact the Corps work here.  In my opinion a Biological Due Diligence study conducted by a committee of local, state, and federal biologists should have been leading the way before any of this was approved.
Never Met A Redfish I Wouldn't Eat!

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CarpMan

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Re: Dredge Dumping in West Galveston Bay
« Reply #7 on: January 05, 2012, 03:31:38 PM »
New feedback from the folks at the Glaveston Bay Foundation - looks more positive now. Lets hope the Corp follows through on what they are suggesting

Matthew, last week, we let the Corps know that we were considering litigation regarding the dredging.  They asked us to come in for a meeting and yesterday we had a six hour meeting at the dredge site and back at the office of the Corps.  The Colonel was there the whole time, as were a half dozen of his staff members.  The Corps has agreed to several things to reduce the impacts to their dredging.  They are going to:
1.   Immediately do a seagrass survey at placement area (“PA”) 62 so they know exactly how much seagrass is there and where it is located specifically. 
2.   They will monitor impacts at PA 63 where the dredging has already taken place so we have a formal record of what the long term impacts to the seagrass there are. 
3.   Create an inter-agency coordination team to discuss all this dredging ahead of time in the future and also develop a full monitoring plan for what has occurred to date.
4.   Change the dredging that has yet to occur in PA 62 to minimize impacts to seagrass.  They will do this in a couple ways.  First, they are looking at taking up to half the dredge material that is still set to be placed in PA 62 and place it on private property north of the intra-coastal as beneficial use material.  Second, for what material still must go in PA 62, they will ensure the dredge material is placed on the upland part of the island and not directly into west bay.  They will also move the dredge pipe multiple times to ensure no more than a thin layer will be placed onto any one area. 
5.   If the monitoring shows that they have killed any seagrass out there, they will consider mitigation for those impacts.  We have not determined what exactly that mitigation will be, but we will stay on it. 

I was impressed with the attention they gave this yesterday.  They took our (and yours) concerns seriously and have agreed to make some significant changes.  Please let me know what you think.  I’ll keep you posted as we move forward. 

Bob Stokes
President
Galveston Bay Foundation
17330 Highway 3
Webster, TX 77598
281.332.3381 x211
www.galvbay.org
bstokes@galvbay.org

Dave Kelly

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Re: Dredge Dumping in West Galveston Bay
« Reply #8 on: January 05, 2012, 03:47:20 PM »
Thanks for the update. Yes it does look positive.
If you haven't already done so, I recommend you let GBF know that TFF appreciates their effort and concern in this matter and offer support.

CarpMan

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Re: Dredge Dumping in West Galveston Bay
« Reply #9 on: January 05, 2012, 04:07:07 PM »
Dave - already done so..and I suggested that TFF would be happy to help survey the recovery (or not) of the grass areas already covered.

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Re: Dredge Dumping in West Galveston Bay
« Reply #10 on: January 05, 2012, 05:46:23 PM »
David had me set up a page for Conservation. You can view it from the navigation menu on t he home page.
I can post whatever you want. It would be nice if you would send me stuff in ANSI text format.  That's what the web recognizes. Converting from PDF or DOC can get to be a hassle.

CarpMan

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Re: Dredge Dumping in West Galveston Bay
« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2012, 09:10:36 AM »
Below is the latest press release from the GBF on this - again more positive developments.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

USACE Makes Changes to West Bay Dredging Project

Webster, TX – January 10, 2012 – The Galveston Bay Foundation (“GBF”) met with officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District (“USACE”) last week to view and discuss a dredging project near Carancahua Point in West Galveston Bay on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. GBF and many local fishermen have been concerned about the dredge material being placed upon seagrasses that have re-established in the area. Seagrass is an important and rare habitat in Galveston Bay, as juvenile shrimp, crabs, and fish all use seagrass beds as nursery areas. Galveston Bay had lost over 90% of its seagrasses since the 1950s, but in recent years, seagrasses have begun to return to the bay.

The USACE justified the dredging project under a study done in the Laguna Madre that showed that long term impacts to seagrass from being covered with a thin layer of dredge material would be minimized if the material was placed in the winter months when the seagrass is photosynthetically inactive. However, because seagrass is so rare in Galveston Bay as compared to the Laguna Madre, GBF asked the USACE to carefully review its plans and make changes to further minimize potential impacts to seagrass. 

The USACE used, or was scheduled to use, two permitted placement areas (“PA”) in West Bay, PA 63 and PA 62 (please see attached maps of PAs). The USACE has already completed its work in PA 63, but is still scheduled to place a substantial amount of dredge material in PA 62. After GBF representatives visited the site and met with the USACE last week, the USACE has agreed to make the following changes:

1.   The USACE will immediately complete a full seagrass survey at PA 62 prior to any new material being placed there and will follow up with a post-dredging survey in PA 63 to establish dredge material thickness and elevations for long term monitoring.
2.   The USACE will monitor impacts at PA 63 where the dredging has already taken place to create a formal record of any long term impacts to the seagrass there. 
3.   The USACE will create an interagency coordination team (“ICT”) to discuss the dredging on the Intracoastal Waterway between Sabine Lake and Matagorda Bay ahead of time in the future, and will also develop a full monitoring plan for disposal areas PA 63 and PA 62. The team will evaluate the seagrass surveys and the post dredging conditions and make recommendations on how the USACE should monitor and  manage operations in PA 62 and 63.
4.   The USACE will attempt to minimize impacts to seagrass from the disposal that has yet to occur in PA 62. First, they will take as much as half the dredge material that is still scheduled to be placed in PA 62 and beneficially use it on private property north of the Intracoastal Waterway. Second, for the material that still must go into PA 62, the USACE will ensure its dredge contractor moves the dredge pipe multiple times to make sure no more than a thin layer will be placed onto any one area.   

GBF President, Bob Stokes, stated, “I was impressed with the attention the USACE gave this matter. They took our concerns and the concerns of local fisherman seriously and have agreed to make important changes to the project.” In the meantime, the placement areas will continue to be monitored to ensure the minimization of negative impacts to seagrasses in West Galveston Bay. 


About Galveston Bay Foundation
The mission of the Galveston Bay Foundation is to preserve, protect, and enhance the natural resources of the Galveston Bay estuarine system and its tributaries for present users and for posterity. The Foundation was incorporated in 1987, and is a non-profit organization under Section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. GBF is located at 17330 Highway 3 in Webster, Texas. For further information, contact GBF at 281-332-3381, or visit the website at www.galvbay.org.