Galveston Bay Report Card: "C" grade plus extra credit for Harvey resiliency

For a major body of water it is a difficult burden to bear, that is, neighboring both 6 million people and the biggest petrochemical complex in the Western Hemisphere.

Between storms, spills, climate change and pollution, the stress on Galveston Bay is relentless - pressure that's under annual scrutiny by the Galveston Bay Foundation, a coalition of Texans committed to saving the resource.

For the fifth straight year, GBF rated the overall condition of the bay with a grade of "C."

"We label it 'adequate for now, but needs attention' and that's sort of our message here. We should be doing better here, we should strive to do better," said Bob Stokes, Director of the Galveston Bay Foundation.

It's an assessment by the GBF-based on six categories of scientific data analyzed by its partner the Houston Advanced Research Center.

"In the grade this year we are seeing resilience, but there are some really important indicators that aren't going in the right direction right now," said Lisa Gonzalez, Director of HARC.

For instance, a dangerous ongoing loss of wetlands vital to flood mitigation and water quality. And then there's the troubling spike in contamination from fertilizer runoff. Add the presence of stubborn, legacy, industrial pollutants and the need for vigilance and action become clear.

"We still see problems with Dioxin, with PCB's, with mercury in sediments particularly around the ship channel," said Gonzalez.

In the ongoing campaign to deter future contamination, the Harris County Attorney's Office is pledging both civil suits and criminal prosecution.

"The people who make decisions to pollute are making dollar bill decisions and so we have to change that so it will cost them more to pollute," said Terry O'Rourke with the HCAO.

Some community takeaways include: 

  • Water quality - reduce the amounts of grease (fats and oils) you pour down your sink as this affects the amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous and dissolved oxygen in the Bay and rivers & bayous
  • Coastal change - reduce storm water run off by installing a rain barrel to positively impact coastal resilience
  • Wildlife - remove litter and trash from your community shorelines to protect wildlife
  • Habitat - volunteer at a wetland or oyster reef restoration event through Galveston Bay Foundation to support local restoration efforts

To see this year's report card, click here.