Houston Environmental News Update July 13, 2016

photo (13)If you haven’t done so already, please make plans to join us tomorrow, July 14, from 4-7 pm, for an informal celebration of CEC’s 45th anniversary. We’ll have libations, snacks, and, of course, cake to celebrate. Even better, you’ll have a chance to mingle with some of the most interesting and committed members of our environmental community. Our office is in a 100-year-old school building just outside downtown at 751 Silver St. Look for the ‘web’ of well over 100 environmental organizations.

On another note…  Al Gore and The Climate reality Project will be here in Houston training new members of its leadership corps in August. The deadline to apply is July 20, 2016.

CEC NOTES

  • Save the Date: Wild & Scenic Film Festival On Tour. Please mark you calendars for January 25 & 26, 2017, for two nights of inspiring short environmental films.

COALITION NOTES

  1. Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Expansion: Public Meetings. Building on more than 30 years of studies and numerous reports released in the last decade calling for additional protections, NOAA’s Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is proposing to expand its boundaries to protect areas of national significance off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. NOAA is proposing to add 15 additional banks, ranging from 70 to 120 miles off-shore, that are comprised of approximately 383 square miles of reefs and bottom features that provide habitat for fish and other biological resources that serve as engines of sustainability for much of the Gulf of Mexico. NOAA is also proposing to extend the existing protections of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary to these additional areas to limit the impact of bottom-disturbing activities on their sensitive biological resources and geological features. There will be one more public meeting on July 13, 2016, at Trini Mendenhall Community Center in Houston from 5:30-7:30pm. Read more at www.meetup.com.
  2. Natural Resources Management Program Plant Propagation Volunteer Opp.

    The Natural Resources Management Program (NRMP) of the Houston Parks & Recreation Department (HPARD) is looking for volunteers to assist in propagation of native plants for restoration projects in parks throughout the city. Current volunteer opportunities include planting locally collected native seed, bumping up plants to 1 gallon pots, and weeding pots. Additionally, there will be opportunities to install plants at restoration sites, assist with school and community planting events, and collect seed at prairie sites around the city.  The NRMP is working to encourage the use of native plants throughout the city of Houston and restore degraded park areas to their historical native prairie ecosystem. We have a wonderful greenhouse facility located on Memorial Drive between East Memorial Loop Drive and Crestwood Drive. The volunteer workdays occur on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month from9 am to noon. Interested volunteers can contact  [email protected] for more information. The next event is Thursday, July 14, 2016.

  3. Hearing on Roads through the Katy Prairie. A Houston Planning Commission public hearing will be held on Thursday, July 14, 2016, 2:30pm at City Hall Annex, Council Chamber (900 Bagby Street, Houston TX 77002). Katy Prairie Conservancy requests that concerned citizens speak in opposition to the proposed amendments calling for roads through Katy Prairie Conservancy properties and for a road encircling the conservation lands. Interested individuals will need to sign up before the meeting starts and to arrive around 2pm. Speakers will have three minutes to to talk, so be prepared, brief, and to the point. KPC asks speakers to tell the planning commissioners what the prairie means to you, why the prairie is important to the region, and why pass-through and ring roads would degrade the conservation values of these lands and severely reduce the important benefits the prairie provides to the citizens of Houston, Harris County, and Waller County. Learn more at www.katyprairie.org.
  4. 2016 Ozone Season Update. 2016 has been another record setting year for temperatures, and we’ve already had over 42 inches of rain. But how does 2016 compare for air pollution? In past years Houston has seen between 15 and 30 ozone days each year-a drastic reduction from the 200+ days we saw in the 1970’s, when ozone had reached a crisis point in Houston. So far in 2016, we have had 11 ozone days, compared to 8 and 6 days at this point in 2015 and 2014, respectively. It seems that our extreme temperatures, combined with Houston’s failure to realize any significant reduction in ozone precursor pollutants over the last several years, is leading to another troubling ozone season in Houston.
    One bright side to all of this is that the state of Texas and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) seem to be getting better at predicting ozone days. Ozone forecasts are issued daily by the TCEQ (you can receive forecasts via email or check them out on Twitter). Days when ozone is forecast to reach unhealthy levels are called “Ozone Action Days.” Learn more at AirAlliance.org.
  5. Sierra Club Meeting. People around the world are becoming more aware of animal agriculture’s effects on the environment. On July 14, 2016, the president of the local nonprofit Vegan for Life, Michael Battey, will present these effects using scientific data. He will discuss the scale of the industry and its use of resources. The presentation will include the industry’s pollution, associated risks to human health, effects on climate, inefficiency, and wastefulness. Food is a big part of our culture and our joy of living. But with the increasingly precarious state of our planet, we are learning to reconcile our personal preferences with our concern for the environment, other animals, and future generations. Come visit with the Sierra Club to learn how we can all make more informed decisions about our dietary choices. The upcoming Sierra Club Meeting will be held on July 14, 2016, at 7:30pm at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church (1800 Sul Ross St). https://sierraclub.org
  6. Gulf-Houston RCP Meetings Summer 2016. The first ever Gulf-Houston Regional Conservation Plan (Gulf-Houston RCP) is a long-term collaborative of environmental, business and governmental entities working together to create a first-ever ecosystem continuity and connectivity plan for the Gulf-Houston Region. There will be multiple Gulf-Houston RCP meetings, held at the Houston Wilderness Conference Room (550 Westcott St) in July. RSVP to [email protected]. Learn more at www.gulfhoustonrcp.org.
    • July 15, 2016 (9:30-10:45am) – Prairie Conservation Initiative
    • July 15, 2016 (1-2pm) – Bayou Greenways Initiative
    • July 15, 2016 (2:30-4pm) – Galveston Bay Oyster Reef & Migratory Bird Initiative
    • July 19, 2016 (1-2:30pm) – Galveston Bay Habitat Acquisition & Easements Initiative
    • July 20, 2016 (2-3:30pm) – Headwaters to Baywaters Initiative
  7. Monthly Volunteer Day at Buffalo Bayou Park. Houstonians, ages 9 and up, are invited to join Buffalo Bayou Partnership for community-wide volunteer days at Buffalo Bayou Park happening the third Saturday of each month. Whether volunteering as a large or small group, or individually, your efforts will lead to a healthier environment and a more aesthetically pleasing amenity for all to enjoy. Volunteers will help with a variety of tasks, including but not limited to: trash pick-up, mulching and weed removal. The next volunteer day will be held on July 16, 2016, 8:30-11:30am. Sign up at http://buffalobayou.org.
  8. Pasadena Rain Barrel Workshop. Rain barrels are an efficient, low-cost, low-maintenance method for collecting rainwater. They are placed at downspouts (or downpours from your roof) in order to reduce runoff and flooding, conserve freshwater, and reduce pollution reaching Galveston Bay via storm drains. Rain barrels can be used for watering a garden or houseplants, washing a car, and much more! There will be a rain barrel workshop held on July 16, 2016, 9:30-11:30am at the Pasadena Convention Center and Fairgrounds. The cost is $35 (1 barrel + 1 kit, includes admission to the workshop). Register at www.galvbay.org.
  9. Cistern at Buffalo Bayou Park with Transition Houston. Transition Houston invites you to come out for a tour of the Cistern at Buffalo Bayou Park on July 16, 2016 from 1:30-2pm. The tour is limited to 30 people so RSVP soon at www.evite.com. Bring $2.00 cash or check to reimburse for the entry fee. The park is located on the east end of the Buffalo Bayou Park just west of downtown Houston. The Cistern at Buffalo Bayou Park is a former drinking water reservoir built in 1926 for the City of Houston. Learn more about the cistern at http://buffalobayou.org.
  10. Full Moon Hike 2016. Come out to Baytown Nature Center on July 16, 2016, 8:30pm, for a 90 minute full moon hike. Hike under the light of the full moon to visit nocturnal habitats that are home to owls, raccoons, opossums, and other wildlife. Be there as the ‘night shift’ awakens to search for food, water, or even a mate. The hike is free with general admission to the nature center ($3 for age 13 and older). Full Moon Hike
  11. Book Release: The Texas Landscape Project. The Texas Landscape Project explores conservation and ecology in Texas by presenting a highly visual and deeply researched view of the widespread changes that have affected the state as its population and economy have boomed and as Texans have worked ever harder to safeguard its bountiful but limited natural resources. Covering the entire state, from Pineywoods bottomlands and Panhandle playas to Hill Country springs and Big Bend canyons, the project examines a host of familiar and not so familiar environmental issues. Learn more about the book: TexasLandscapeProject. There will be a reading at the Brazos Bookstore (2421 Bissonnet St) on July 18, 2016, at 7pm. Learn more at www.brazosbookstore.com.
  12. WaterSmart Landscapes for the Upper Texas Gulf Coast. On Tuesday, July 19, 2016, learn from local experts about ways your organization can be WaterSmart. The goal is to provide a tool that will help people landscape in a way that is low-maintenance, low-cost, and low-impact on the environment. From sprinkler to storm drain, from bayou to bay, the water used to maintain your yard remains untreated. What you do to your lawn and what runs off your yard determines the health of Galveston Bay. If you think your contribution to water pollution is insignificant, add your runoff to that of your neighbors and combine that with the rest of the Galveston Bay watershed. The result is runoff pollution – the number one source of water pollution in most of our bayous. A WaterSmart yard utilizes plants and practices that require less water plus little or no fertilizers and pesticides. With minimal grass cover and maximum use of native and adapted plants, the WaterSmart landscape is beautiful and easy to maintain and environmentally friendly. By converting your lawn one section at a time you can create a landscape that helps preserve the bay area and gradually reduces your maintenance time. Register at http://watersmart.tamu.edu.
  13. Webinar to Focus on Eco-Logical Tool. H-GAC will host a webinar to demonstrate the use and functions of its Eco-Logica tool at 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 20. This online mapping application is designed to bring the conservation of the region’s most valuable ecological resources to the forefront of the transportation infrastructure development process. The tool furthers a nationwide initiative by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to promote an ecosystem approach to transportation planning.  Online registration is required. For more information on the upcoming webinar contact Meredith Dang or Ayo Jibowu
  14. Houston Green Film Series: Bikes vs. Cars. Air Alliance Houston, in partnership with Bike Houston, presents this month’s installment of the Houston Green Film Series on July 20, 2016. The film, Bikes vs. Cars (2015), depicts a global crisis that we all deep down know we need to talk about: climate, earth’s resources, cities where the entire surface is consumed by the car. An ever-growing, dirty, noisy traffic chaos. The bike is a great tool for change, but the powerful interests who gain from the private car invest billions each year on lobbying and advertising to protect their business. In the film we meet activists and thinkers who are fighting for better cities, who refuse to stop riding despite the increasing number killed in traffic. Learn more at www.airalliance.org.
    • 6:30 – conversation, networking, and a light meal
    • 7:00 – film screening
    • 8:30 – panel discussion
    $5 suggested donation to cover food costs, and benefit the Rice Environmental Club.
  15. Community Efficiency Leaders Workshop – Water & Energy Best Practices. On July 21, 2016, HARC and the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) are excited to present the second Houston-Galveston region workshop on energy and water efficiency. The topics in this workshop include: Purple Pipe in Communities – Reduce water consumption and energy use through reclaimed water; Strategic Energy Management – Focus on low cost efforts with big impacts; PACE Financing – New Economic Development Tool for Cities; and Power Resilience for critical infrastructure – Focus on cogeneration/CHP to ensure the lights stay on when the grid goes down during a natural disaster. This is open to all public agencies and communities in the region. Lunch will be provided. Register at www.eventbrite.com.
  16. Ladies Casting for Conservation. Ladies Casting for Conservation is a women’s one-day fishing tournament held in Crystal Beach, Texas on Bolivar Peninsula. This unique event brings together fishing enthusiasts and helps protect Galveston Bay’s natural resources. Now in its fourth year, the tournament has drawn interest from anglers throughout the state. This tournament is for everyone, from those fishing for the first time to those that know how to reel in a big catch! It’s a day of fun and an opportunity to learn about Galveston Bay. Participants enjoy a day of competitive fishing that benefits Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF) in its efforts to preserve and protect Galveston Bay. The tournament will be held on July 23, 2016. Registration is $300 per team (or $100 per team member). Learn more and register at http://support.galvbay.org.
  17. Growing Green. Ever wonder whether resources were available to help maximize your agricultural production or improve your property, but didn’t know which agency to ask? Then join H-GAC for Growing Green on July 23, 2016, from 9am-noon at the Brazoria County AgriLife Extension Offices. This free half-day workshop will give you the opportunity to meet face to face with representatives from state and local agricultural groups, and hear about financial and technical assistance programs your property may qualify for. Learn more and register at http://events.r20.constantcontact.com.
  18. Nature Revealed: Intro to Entomology. Insects are by far the most diverse and numerous animals in the world. There are more than 900,000 species worldwide! From tiny, hidden bark beetles to showy moths with six-inch wingspans, insects come in a bewildering variety of shapes, sizes, and lifestyles. This class will give you an introduction to entomology – the study of insects. It is designed to help you get started identifying species that you may find in the Arboretum. Learn about insect anatomy, their sometimes complex life cycles, and helpful tools for identification. The class will be held on July 23, 2016, 9-11am at the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center. The cost is $20 for members and $35 for non-members. Register at http://houstonarboretum.org.
  19. July Green Building Education Seminar. There will be a residential energy update in Houston on July 27, 2016, 6-8pm at the City of Houston Permitting Center. How can we get to reasonable with the enormous amount of energy consumed by residential buildings? Polly will provide an overview of various energy efficiency services, including audits, building plan analysis, infrared imaging, Energy Star and LEED for Homes consulting, and blower door and duct blaster testing. Richard will focus on the status of the ongoing Department of Energy Texas Residential Energy Code Field Study and how the data collected in the study will help us prepare for the new Texas 2015 Energy Code that becomes effective on September 1. He will present the initial data collection results of the study, and identify the areas where more education, outreach and training are needed and the tools SPEER has developed to meet those needs. www.greenhoustontx.gov
  20. Demystifying Irrigation. July 27, 2016, at 6:00 pm at Hermann Park. Irrigation is one of the most critical components of any plant growing system. However, the ways in which water moves through the soil and is used by plants can be mystery to some gardeners. With some basic knowledge of water, soil and plants, any gardener can increase their yields and reduce disease. The class will be taught by Scott Snodgrass, Co-Owner of The Edible Group, and will cover the following topics: how water interacts with soil; how plants use water; common irrigation systems; and irrigation tuning. Scott’s time in the garden center, restaurant, landscaping, certified organic farming and education industries has led him to be passionate about local food systems. He believes that local food production on both residential and agricultural scales are critical to the health of our city. www.hermannpark.org
  21. Summer Salons: Water, Water Everywhere. Center for Houston’s Future will be hosting a series of breakfast discussions throughout the summer, bringing big-picture thinkers and regional leaders together for a deep-dive into our community indicators and next steps. The discussions are part of the Summer Salons. The final Salon, on August 10, is “Surging Water–Storm Surge Protection and Response.” Tickets are $25. Learn more and RSVP at www.futurehouston.com.
  22. 32nd Annual Mayor’s Proud Partner Awards – Call For Entries. It’s that time again! Keep Houston Beautiful is now accepting award applications for the 2016 Mayor’s Proud Partner Awards. Gather your organization’s leaders together and select that special project you would like to submit demonstrating your commitment to keeping Houston beautiful! ALL applications must be submitted online and are due no later than 5 p.m. on Monday, August 15, 2016. Apply at https://form.jotform.com.
  23. Nominations Open–Terry Hershey Texas Women in Conservation Award. Audubon and the Texas Women in Conservation Award Program Steering Committee are now seeking nominations of women conservationists who, like Terry Hershey, have shown leadership, innovation, and passion for the landscapes and wildlife of the Lone Star State. Nominations can be submitted by email or mail by the addresses below and will be accepted now through August 19, 2016. To learn more, visit http://tx.audubon.org/conservation/terry-hershey-award.
  24. Bucket Brigade Interpretive Beach Tours. The Bucket Brigade is out on Galveston beaches providing FREE interpretive tours of the coastal and marine ecosystems! Tours last approximately 45 minutes and include hands-on exploration of questions such as “what is in out water”, “how is seaweed a good thing” and “how do I connect to the ocean” that is fun and educational for ocean-lovers of all ages! Tours are available at multiple Galveston beach locations, including Stewart and East Beaches, during the weekends in April and May and daily in the summer. Sign up for tours is on location. For more information on tour times and locations, please visit www.artistboat.org or call 409-770-0722. The Bucket Brigade is a program of Artist Boat and the Galveston Island Park Board of Trustees.
  25. Texas A&M National Association of Environmental Professionals Career and Internship Expo. The annual NAEP Expo will be held at Texas A&M October 7, 2016. Environmental organizations are invited to host a table to network with environmental majors students.  Deadline for early bird registration is July 31.
  26. Save the Date:
    • 7/29/16: Drawing from the Garden
    • 8/9/2016 and 8/11/16: Educators Night Out at the Houston Zoo: www.houstonzoo.org

COMMUNITY NOTES

  1. Attwater’s Prairie-Chicken Population – 2016. “What you need to do is build a bubble over the refuge.” That is the conclusion that many individuals, albeit jokingly, have offered up as a solution to the roadblocks that Mother Nature continues to place with regard to APC recovery. Drought, heavy rain, hurricanes, and catastrophic wild fires are all natural phenomena that Attwater’s prairie-chickens have dealt with for eons. The difference is now, APCs balance precariously on the precipice of extinction, trying to avoid being “flicked” over the edge by one of these events. The APC’s “strategies” for dealing with adverse weather – strength in numbers which enables populations to weather these proverbial storms, and a high potential reproductive rate to rebuild diminished populations – have been severely handicapped due to habitat loss and introduction of foreign invaders like the red imported fire ant. Couple that with the inherent slow growth of very small populations results in a situation, often described for endangered species like the APC, as being stuck in an “extinction vortex”. Read more about APC’s strategy and the 2016 nesting season: Friends Newsletter July 2016.
  2. Summerfest at Rice Farmers Market. Come out on July 26, 2016, 3:30-6pm for a summer celebration at the market. There will be live music, a cooking demo by Rice University Housing and Dining chefs, and activities for kids. And of course, you can shop with the great vendors! Local breweries will be serving up some age-appropriate refreshments for the 21-and-up patrons. This is a party you don’t want to miss! Learn more at www.facebook.com.
  3. Sunday Evening Conversations: Reducing Toxins in the Home. The next Sunday Evening Conversation will be held on July 31, 2016, at 6pm at Christ the King Evangelical Lutheran Church. ermann Sanders, a public information officer and communications liaison for Harris County, will offer a pre-recorded talk on Reducing Toxins in the Home. Hermann supports the needs of the Communications and Public Involvement Program of the Public Infrastructure Department. Hermann will also provide extensive FAQs for any questions that may arise during the pre-recorded talk. If you would like to join this conversation, contact Lisa Brenskelle at [email protected] to receive an invitation to the talk.
  4. Certified Arborist Test Prep Course. This course is designed to teach you arboriculture knowledge (the practice & study of the care of trees) and prepare you to take the ISA Certified Arborist Exam. All 16 chapters from the ISA Certification Study Guide will be covered in detail by professionals working in the field of arboriculture and urban forestry. The class will be held July 29 & 30 and August 5 & 6. Registration is $250. Learn more about the Certified Arborist Test Prep Course.
  5. 2016 Texas Environmental Leadership Awards. The Texas Environmental Leadership Awards recognize true stewards of environmental change in Texas – individuals, communities, organizations, and businesses developing and maintaining programs involving recycling, composting, sustainable materials management, public education and outreach, special event recycling – and so much more. Awards are a great way to get recognized for the hard work that you and your staff do every day to make Texas better! Applications are due August 5, 2016 by 5pm. Award winners will be honored at a special ceremony and dinner in San Antonio as part of the Texas Recycling Summit on the evening of Tuesday, October 18, 2016. Learn more at https://recyclingstar.formstack.com.
  6. Texas Environmental Excellence Awards. The Texas Environmental Excellence Awards (TEEA) honor achievements in environmental preservation and protection. As the state's highest environmental honor, the Office of the Governor and commissioners from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality recognize outstanding projects from nine diverse categories: agriculture, civic/community, education, individual, innovative operations/management, pollution prevention technical/technology, water conservation, and youth. You can apply online at teea.org/apply; this page also contains helpful information on how to write an effective application. If you would like an example of a winning application, send your request to [email protected] and include one (or more) or the award categories. The last day you can submit is September 30, 2016. Apply at www.teea.org. Read more: TEEA.
  7. Restoration Project Proposals. The Deepwater Horizon Texas Trustee Implementation Group (TIG) has announced the beginning of the next phase of Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) related restoration planning (see full announcement below). The Texas TIG is prioritizing current restoration planning efforts on restoration types that were not addressed previously by Early Restoration: 1) restore and conserve wetland, coastal, and nearshore habitats; 2) restore water quality through nutrient reduction (nonpoint source); and 3) replenish and protect oysters. The Texas TIG will also consider projects for engineering and design that focus on the three restoration types mentioned above. Despite the focus on these restoration categories, the Texas TIG will continue to consider any important opportunities for additional restoration and protection of avian resources and sea turtles. Project submittals for this round of restoration planning must be entered into the NOAA Natural Resource Damage Assessment website or the WWW.RESTORETHETEXASCOAST.ORG webpage project portals by August 31, 2016. All proposals received by that date will undergo review and consideration during the selection process.
  8. Houston Area Solar Energy Program. Harvest Moon is building community solar farms in the Houston area for Houstonians looking to play an active role in transitioning away from big-utility fossil fuels toward a more local and sustainable energy infrastructure. For less than 12 cents per kWh (including CenterPoint delivery charges), customers get solar energy produced from Harvest Moon’s inaugural solar farm in Sealy, TX, via a comprehensive, transparent, and 100% renewable electricity plan with no term obligations or cancellation fees. Participation directly supports additional clean energy projects in the region that contribute to the  local economy and community.  Learn more and sign up at hmrenewable.com.
  9. Save the Date:
  10. TV: Texas Parks & Wildlife. Broadcast on KUHT Channel 8 at 3:00 PM each Saturday and on municipal access cable channels in Baytown, Deer Park, Houston, Texas City, Galveston, Nassau Bay, Pasadena, Seabrook, Sugar Land, and on HCC TV. More info on the TPWD website (* indicates a segment about the Houston area). For a preview, visit TPWD’s YouTube Page.
    • Texas Tussle, A Gator Hunt
    • Lone Star Land Steward: Neches Refuge
    • When Every Day is Earth Day