A collaborative effort is underway to find manageable solutions to help improve the water quality of Highland Bayou.
The Highland Bayou Project’s working group has been meeting with various city leaders and other interested parties to draft a voluntary plan with steps to improve the watershed, Steven Mikulencak, head of the project, said in an earlier interview with The Daily News.
The project has ties to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, but is funded by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. It’s aimed at creating a Highland Bayou Watershed Protection Plan.
The state’s environmental agency listed Highland Bayou as impaired because of low oxygen levels and bacterias that result from its slow, stagnant water flow. It’s one of several bayous around Galveston Bay listed as impaired. Dickinson Bayou is another example.
Lower levels of oxygen cause sporadic fish kills and high bacteria levels can make it unsafe to swim in, Mikulencak said.
“We’re working with communities around Highland Bayou to come up with steps to improve the watershed,” Mikulencak said. “It’s all voluntary, but we’ll help communities identify funding sources.”
Representatives from La Marque, Hitchcock and Bayou Vista are all involved in the talks, according to Celina Gauthier Lowery, an extension associate with the project.
La Marque Councilman Robert Michetich has attended the meetings. The group discussed different local sources of pollution to the bayou, he said. Those range from littering, to discharge from a surge treatment, to storm and wastewater runoff, he said.
“Sometimes it’s from someone who’s working on a vehicle in their driveway and lets the antifreeze run down the driveway and it ultimately gets into the water,” Michetich said. “That kind of stuff becomes pretty toxic.”
Michetich said he’s also connected the working group to a project manager at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to see what can be done about the Diversionary Canal in Santa Fe, an upstream dam, to clean out its culverts and allow better water flow. The corps of engineers office did not provide comment on the project before press time.
So far, the group has discussed various awareness programs, which Michetich said the city of La Marque could adopt. For example, the city could put mailers with important information in residents’ water bills about avoiding pollutions, he said.
Regardless, cities will be considering different efforts to clean up the bayou because of its ecological and recreational importance to the community, he said.
“It’s a good area to fish, and we don’t want to see that get messed up,” Michetich said.
The stakeholder group will meet again this Wednesday and the project’s director will complete a draft of the watershed plan later this spring.
Staff reporter Chacour Koop contributed to this report.