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Texas National Coastal Assessment (2000-2004): Challenges, Lessons Learned and Future Directions

James Simons 1 and Charles Smith 2

1 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Corpus Christi, Texas
2 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin, Texas

Texas’ experience with the National Coastal Assessment (NCA) began with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (TPWD) Resource Protection Division and the immediate challenge of integrating the NCA effort with TPWD’s Coastal Fisheries Division and its existing probabilistic Fishery Independent Monitoring Program. Close coordination and detailed planning along with a novel two boat sampling operation helped to make this alliance work. Partnerships with national estuary programs doubled sampling effort and greatly improved coverage of the Texas coast over the initial fifty stations. Airboats, biobags, PVC corers and other approaches were instrumental in overcoming numerous technical challenges.

We learned of a water clarity index that does not work well on a shallow, muddy, wind blown coast, of an Index of Biotic Integrity that fails in the southern, shallow, sandy, seagrass-festooned lagoons of south Texas, and of differing patterns of contamination by PCBs, PAHs, and pesticides. We found that NCA data can provide a more complete assessment of sediment and water quality than the traditional 305b report, with better spatial coverage and a measure of validity.

A loose confederation of state agencies is considering ways in which we might take advantage of probabilistic sampling designs and regional collaboration to monitor the Gulf of Mexico coast. Presently the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and TPWD are working on a joint project to redesign sediment and water quality monitoring. It is hoped that this will be the springboard to a continuous monitoring program and opportunities for further improvement of ecosystem health assessment of the Texas coast.

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