Clean Water Partnership promotes environmental stewardship.
There is no denying the intrinsic beauty of Galveston Bay, but nature often needs a helping hand to maintain a long-term, sustainable relationship with the nearly 4.5 million people who live in the five counties that surround the Bay.
A variety of human and natural causes, such as severe drought or flooding, can wreak havoc on the Bay, and that’s why the Galveston Bay Foundation created a program that encourages organizations to become stewards of the Bay.
The Clean Water Partnership program, which launched in May 2012, is designed to let people “get their hands wet” in the effort to address important environmental issues in and around the Bay, says Charlene Bohanon, the foundation’s water quality outreach specialist and team leader on the program.
“The goal is to engage community organizations in their environment…provide educational opportunities that will lead to behavior change, and to help partners take action in practical ways that can benefit Galveston Bay," Bohanon says. “Through collaboration with various organizations—from schools and Scout groups to homeowner associations and local businesses—GBF works with partners to offer hands-on workshops, classes and events, and to implement projects that can reduce bacteria levels entering the Bay.”
Bohanon adds, “Some of our biggest water quality problems are caused by actions that do not seem to be a big deal on an individual level and really add up over time. It is going to take everyone getting onboard to make a difference.”
Galveston Bay Foundation launched its first partnership in April with Marina Del Sol, 1203 Twin Oaks Blvd., in Kemah, “and we have a couple other partnerships in the works.”
Best Boating Practices
Charlene Bohanon, the Galveston Bay Foundation’s water quality specialist, also leads the organization’s Boater Waste Education Campaign.
“One of the main concerns of recreational boating on Clear Lake and Galveston Bay is the issue of properly disposing of boat sewage,” Bohanon says.
Discharging boater sewage into the water can introduce disease-causing microorganisms that are vectors for diseases such as hepatitis A, typhoid and cholera. Additionally, sewage can lead to depressed oxygen levels resulting in fish kills.
Clear Lake is a federally-designated No Discharge Zone, which means it is illegal to discharge both treated and untreated sewage into Clear Lake. Additionally, it is illegal to discharge untreated waste into Galveston Bay.
“There are 28 marinas in the Galveston Bay/Clear Lake area, most of which are located on Clear Lake, which has the third highest concentration of privately-owned marinas in the United States.”
However, there are only nine public and four private pump-outs in the area, which mean 50 percent of the marinas have no pump-out facility.
“Boaters in those marinas must either hire a mobile pump-out service or travel to the nearest marina with a public facility,” she says. “Aside from obeying the law and pumping out their boats, GBF asks boaters to join us in encouraging local government officials to pass ordinances requiring all marinas to have functioning pump-out facilities—and that enforcement agencies actually issue citations to those boaters who are discharging sewage into our bay.”
According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) website (http://m.tceq.texas.gov), violations of the Clean Water Certification Program can be enforced under the Texas Water Code, with administrative penalties of up to $25,000 per day, as well as under the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code, in which the violator faces a Class C misdemeanor charge and fines of up to $500. To report a violation, call 1-888-777-3186.
In addition to encouraging boaters to obey laws governing speeding, littering and discharges, the Galveston Bay Foundation offers the following tips on how to be an environmentally friendly boater:
- Recycle cans, glass, plastic, newspapers, antifreeze, oil, and lead batteries.
- Do not let trash blow overboard. Trash must be retrieved.
- Keep your engine well tuned to prevent fuel and oil leaks .
- Prevent fuel spills by filling fuel tanks slowly and use absorbent pads or rags to catch drips and spills. Leave the tank 10 percent empty to allow fuel to expand as it warms.
- Wash your boat frequently with a sponge and plain water. Use phosphate-free, biodegradable and non-toxic cleaners.
- Establish a regular maintenance schedule for marine sanitation devices based on the manufacturer's recommendations.
- Do not throw fish waste into marina waters. Discard waste over deep water or in the trash, or save fish waste and use as chum or bait.
- Proceed slowly in shallow areas (wake can lead to shoreline erosion), do not disturb wildlife, and avoid contact with submerged aquatic vegetation.
For more information about clean boating, visit www.cleanmarinas.org.