San Antonio Bay Partnership speaks for environment, especially during drought

Two whooping cranes attempt to catch a snake in Texas a few months after Hurricane Harvey.
Allan Berger, chairman of the San Antonio Bay Partnership, picks up an abandoned crab trap in San Antonio Bay.

Some are speaking up for those who can’t say they’re thirsty.

Oysters, blue crabs and perhaps most famously, endangered whooping cranes, all depend on the estuary, or the place where the San Antonio and Guadalupe rivers’ mouths widen and meet the Gulf of Mexico, mixing fresh and saltwater.

The San Antonio Bay Partnership, a nonprofit started seven years ago, held two meetings in spring 2017 to determine its priorities going forward.

They didn’t know then how quickly they’d need to mobilize for one priority, supporting species that perish when the water is too salty, with the Crossroads now facing a severe drought.

“This one, to me, has the makings of a very serious and significant drought. It’s kind of looking like the early stages of what we saw in 2011 or 2014 and 2015,” said James Dodson, the San Antonio Bay Partnership’s Facilitator/Project Manager.

During a drought from 2008-2009, about 23 whooping cranes died.

The first idea the San Antonio Bay Parntership had was to build clusters of wells near the Guadalupe River 12 miles above and below Victoria. The wells would pump river water through sand and gravel, which would clean it. It would then be stored until such time as it’s needed in a drought.

But Dodson said this would cost about $35,000 just to study if it’s feasible.

One idea the San Antonio Bay Partnership has moved on, though, is installing freshwater wells for whooping cranes.

A few years ago, the International Crane Foundation created a list of places whooping cranes currently use and may use in the future that don’t have a source of freshwater. The San Antonio Bay Partnership and other environmental groups have sought grants to install wells at those places, but an additional 55 are needed.

“Right now, we’re in the middle of a series of replacements, that is wells that couldn’t be repaired (after Hurricane Harvey). We’re actually drilling new wells. Three are on refuge property and one is on a private property where there’s a conservation easement for whooping cranes,” Dodson said.

According to the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, about 40 percent of the state was experiencing a drought as of Friday.

The Guadalupe River in Victoria was flowing at 463 cubic feet per second Monday morning and there is no rain in Victoria’s seven-day forecast.

The next event the San Antonio Bay Partnership is hosting is a 13-mile paddle down the Guadalupe River to Seadrift for experienced kayakers on June 16.

Go to sabaypartnership.org to read its strategic plan and become a sponsor. The San Antonio River Authority will match the first $25,000 raised.

“We’re a small nonprofit trying to take on a pretty large set of projects,” Dodson said, “so we appreciate any volunteer participation and financial assistance.”

The San Antonio Bay Partnership has also:

Taken fourth and fifth grade students from Austwell-Tivoli school district to the Rockport Hummerbird Celebration Expanded the Port O’Connor Paddling Trail and added signs And removed abandoned crab traps

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