Houston Environmental News Update July 13, 2022

Houston Heat Mapping, Sea Turtles Update, Pollinator Walk, Purple Martin Migration Watch Party, Gardening with Native Plants, Green Jobs, and more

Dear Friends,

Hot enough for you? Just kidding, we know the answer. As Houston and Southeast Texas experience record temperatures this early summer, with little relief in sight, we thought this week we would offer a reminder about the the urband heat island effect and heat-mapping efforts in our region.

Almost two years ago, on August 7, 2020, residents of Houston and Harris County took part in the largest single-day, community-led heat mapping effort in Houston. As reported by Carson Sartain of The Nature Conservancy, around 75 community scientists took to the streets with specially-designed thermal sensors attached to their cars or bicycles. They embarked on a 300-square-mile effort to measure and map urban heat in the region.

“Ultimately, the urban heat island effect can impact many aspects of human health and well-being,” Dr. Meredith Jennings, Ph.D., said. “This study will be an important first step to help communities understand urban heat islands, guide policymakers on next steps, and move forward with science-backed solutions to improve quality of life.”

The study, called the Houston Harris Heat Team (or H3AT), is a combined effort of The Nature Conservancy Texas, Resilient Houston, the City of Houston, Harris County Public Health, and the Houston Advanced Research Center.

A wealth of data, stories and other resources from the project are available at h3at.org.

Top image: Houston Harris Heat Team


CEC NOTES

Summer of Action 2022

Our Summer of Action is clipping along, having produced two successful Community Listening Sessions.

Next on the agenda is a series of three Skill-Building Sessions designed to empower concerned citizens and local community leaders to advocate for climate resilience funding from the Justice40 initiative and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Thanks to funding from EDF, these events are free and open to the public:

Please register at Eventbrite for these and other Summer of Action events. We look forward to seeing you there!


Professional Development Opportunities for Teachers

Join fellow environmental educators every other Friday morning for a quick check-in to collaborate. The next meeting is July 15, beginning at 8:30 a.m. Bring your coffee (or tea) and ideas for things that are working in your programs (or questions about things that are not). The Zoom call is hosted by regional board members from the Texas Association for Environmental Education. Email Alicia at Alicia.Mein@pct3.hctx.net for Zoom link and any questions.


Virtually Wild! Texas Student Learning Programs

Region 4 Education Service Center partners with the Virtually Wild! Texas team to provide students with engaging and interactive TEKS-aligned virtual environmental education field trips that highlight careers in conservation. These free 45-minute programs are live, and teachers and students are encouraged to engage with natural resources professionals by asking questions. Topics vary by program and have included endangered species, animal adaptations, habitat exploration, wildlife crime investigations, and more! Public, private, homeschool, hospitals, and education sites are welcome to view. See program listings and register at esc4.net.


Texas Wildlife Foundation Summer 2022 Teacher Workshops

The Texas Wildlife Foundation is offering Teacher Workshops, both virtual and in-person through July 28. Teacher Workshops are six-hour trainings that introduce attendees to the Texas Wildlife Association, in-class and outdoor lessons and activities, and how to incorporate natural resources into classrooms or programming. Lessons focus on teaching land stewardship, native wildlife, and water conservation and are Science TEKS-aligned for Grades K-8. Learn more and register at texas-wildlife.org.

Other opportunities:


Please scroll down to read about public engagement opportunities and notes from our member organizations and the community.


OPPORTUNITIES FOR PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT


Informational Meeting, Public Hearing for CDBG Regional Mitigation Funds Method of Distribution

Houston-Galveston Area Council staff will hold an informational meeting to discuss a conditionally approved preliminary Method of Distribution (MOD) for $488,762,000 in U.S. Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Mitigation funds to provide funds to counties and local jurisdictions for risk mitigation projects related to flooding, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. The meeting will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 14. During the meeting, H-GAC staff will provide an overview of the conditionally approved preliminary MOD, including information about data used in its development, and will answer questions. The meeting is online, and registration is required.

H-GAC staff will take oral and written public comments during a public hearing from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 21. The hearing will be at H-GAC, second floor conference rooms, and on Zoom. Registration is requested to attend in person and required to attend online. As it is a public hearing, H-GAC staff is not permitted to respond to any questions or comments during this meeting.


Regional Flood Management Committee Meeting

On July 20, from 1:30-3:30 p.m., the Houston-Galveston Area Council will hold a hybrid meeting of the Regional Flood Management Committee. For more information and to register, visit h-gac.com.


Draft Water Quality Management Plan Update Public Comment Period open through July

Each year, the Houston-Galveston Area Council conducts water quality management planning as part of a Clean Water Act Section 604(b) grant program funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The Water Quality Management Plan Update describes activities that provide data and analysis regarding wastewater infrastructure, watershed planning, and sources of nonpoint source pollution that affect water quality in the Houston-Galveston region. Data collected through this project form the foundation of H-GAC’s watershed-based planning efforts in the region. As part of this process, the Draft Water Quality Management Plan Update is released for a public comment period. The public comment period will close at midnight on Sunday, July 31. The public is invited to provide comments on the report. Written comments can be submitted by email to Brian Sims.


Harris County flood risk reduction funds surveys

The Harris County Community Services Department is collecting feedback from communities on how to prioritize the $750 million in promised CDBG-MIT funds. The Committees recently submitted this letter to request that the Method of Distribution strongly prioritize flood risk reduction projects. You can find out more at HarrisRecovery.org, and the surveys, in English and Spanish, are open throughout the summer.



Public Comment on Harris County Storm Conveyance Tunnels proposal

The Harris County Flood Control District is seeking public comment on the recently released Feasibility Study on the Countywide Large Diameter Tunnels for Stormwater Conveyance, a $30 billion, 133-mile system of 8 large underground tunnels to drain stormwater out of the county’s bayous and streams. Public comment will be accepted through September 30. The next phase of the project will include community meetings. Find more information, including the presentation slides and video of a public meeting held in June, at hcfcd.org.


Learn about additional public comment opportunities at cechouston.org.



COALITION & COMMUNITY NOTES

We have endeavored to confirm the opportunities listed below. Please consider confirming directly with the hosts.


EPA Objects to Valero Houston Refinery’s Title V Air Permit

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has filed a formal objection to Valero Houston Refinery’s Title V Air Permit due to the failure of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to assure compliance with Clean Air Act emission limitations, including important monitoring requirements, according to a press release from Lone Star Legal Aid. “Among other important steps: the order recognizes the need for the facility to monitor for harmful pollution leaks, also known as fugitive emissions; the need for the state to satisfy its obligation to create a mailing list to share information with the public about the facility; and the need to add better monitoring for several other high-emitting units at the refinery, such as the flares and fluid catalytic cracking unit.” Read the full press release at lonestarlegal.org.


Information from 2022 Trustee Council Annual Meeting webinar available

Outreach materials are now available from the June 16 Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Trustee Council’s annual meeting webinar. This virtual event, the Trustees’ seventh annual public meeting, provided an update on Trustees’ work since the last meeting in June 2021. It also included a 30-minute Open House during which Trustee Implementation Group members were available to discuss projects and answer questions. Find the materials at gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov.


Long-Term Monitoring at East and West Flower Garden Banks: 2020 and 2021 Annual Report available

The East and West Flower Garden Banks Long-Term Monitoring: 2020-2021 report has been published to the Office of National Marine Sanctuary Conservation Series. The long-term monitoring program at East and West Flower Garden Banks includes 32 years of nearly continuous coral reef monitoring data. The long-term monitoring program at Stetson Bank is not quite as long, having been established in 1993. Find the full report at sanctuaries.noaa.gov.


City of Houston enters Stage One of the Drought Contingency Plan

The City of Houston has activated Stage One of the Drought Contingency Plan. The Drought Contingency Plan goes into effect when there are higher-than-normal daily temperatures and an observed drop in annual rainfall amounts. During the past month, Houston has experienced record-setting high temperatures above 90 degrees and a significant drop in rainfall. Most of Houston’s service area is experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions. The City is making every effort to avoid entering Stage Two of the Drought Contingency Plan, which calls for mandatory water restrictions, and can result in citations and fines. Please help us by taking small steps to prevent this from happening. Learn more, including ways you can help, at publicworks.houstontx.gov.


Politics & Global Warming”  report released

The Yale Program on Climate Communications recently released a report titled “Politics & Global Warming” based on a national survey, conducted in April and May 2022. Overall, the report finds that public support for climate and clean energy policies has softened since the previous study in September 2021. However, many registered voters say that climate change will be an important issue in the 2022 congressional elections: Read the full report at climatecommunication.yale.edu.




Lone Star Legal Aid’s “All About Ports” workshop series

Every Thursday in July, Lone Star Legal Aid’s Equitable Development Initiative will host an interactive webinar series about how to advocate for environmental justice and economic justice in communities affected by ports and industry along the Texas Gulf Coast. Topics include port governance, climate change, port expansions, railways, trucking and truck yards, air pollution, environmental nuisances, dredging, advocacy tools, and more. Each webinar will begin at 7 p.m. Learn more and register at eventbrite.com.


Drones in Environmental Enforcement

On July 14, from 1-4 p.m., the Houston-Galveston Area Council will hold a workshop about using drones in environmental enforcement at its headquarters at 3555 Timmons Lane. For more information and to register, visit h-gac.com.


Keep Pearland Beautiful Garden Lecture: Composting

On July 14, beginning at 7 p.m., Keep Pearland Beautiful will hold a virtual Garden Lecture on composting, presented by the Brazoria County Master Gardener, over its Facebook page.


Houston Sierra Club: Update on Sea Turtles in the Gulf of Mexico

On July 14, from 7:30-9 p.m., the Houston chapter of the Sierra Club will hold a virtual meeting featuring a presentation by Joanie Steinhaus, the Gulf Program Director for the Turtle Island Restoration Network. She will provide an update on the situation with sea turtles in the Gulf. The Turtle Island Restoration Network celebrated 30 years of ocean conservation projects in 2019, and this presentation will cover their work in the Gulf of Mexico. For more information and to register, visit meetup.com.


Terry Hershey Bayou Stewardship Award nominations due July 15

Each year, the prestigious Terry Hershey Bayou Stewardship Award recognizes individuals in the community who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to aiding in the conservation, preservation, restoration, and/or advocacy of Houston’s waterways. Nominees can be from the non-profit, public, or private sectors. To nominate an individual for the Terry Hershey Bayou Stewardship Award, please complete and submit a digital nomination form to info@bayoupreservation.org. The Award will be presented at the 12th Annual Terry Hershey Bayou Stewardship Award Luncheon on November 1, at the Junior League of Houston. Nominations are open until July 15. 


Clear Creek Watershed Partnership Meeting

On July 15, from 1:30-3:30 p.m., the Clear Creek Watershed Partnership will hold a hybrid meeting at the Pearland Library, Tom Reid Building, Meeting Room, 3522 Liberty Drive. A virtual “catch-up” meeting for those unable to attend the meeting will be held that evening (the same content will be covered at both meetings). The primary focus of the meeting will be to discuss causes and sources of fecal bacteria pollution in Clear creek and its tributaries. For more information, including links to connect with the virtual meetings, visit clearcreekpartnership.weebly.com.


Pollinator Walk at Buffalo Bayou Park

On July 16, from 9-10:30 a.m., Buffalo Bayou Patnership will host a guided Pollinator Walk. Dr. Gabriela Sosa, BBP’s Conservation Manager, and a representative from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, will lead participants on a walk along Buffalo Bayou Park to identify those native plants and flowers that attract the necessary pollinators that the Buffalo Bayou ecosystem relies on. For more information and to register, visit buffalobayou.org.


Purple Martin Migration Watch Party

On July 17, before sunset, Houston Audubon will host the first of its Purple Martin Migration Watch Parties of the year. Purple Martins migrate from South America beginning in late January to nest across North America. Before heading back south for the winter, Purple Martins gather in larger numbers and feed on flying insects to fuel up for their long journey. At dusk, groups of up to 500,000 come together to roost. Grab your friends and family, bring a lawn chair, and enjoy a unique experience. Specific locations and times can be found at houstonaudubon.org.


Land, Water, Wildlife – Conservation in Action

On July 18, from noon-1 p.m., Texan by Nature (TxN) and North Texas Municipal Water District will present a webinar featuring a panel of leaders from TxN, NTMWD, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and the Texas Conservation Alliance to discuss diverse and unique flora; water resources, recreation and conservation; and wildlife conversation. For more information and to register, visit eventbrite.com.


Houston Beekeepers Association meeting

On July 19, beginning at 7 p.m., the Houston Beekeepers Association will hold its monthly meeting at  at Architecture Center Houston. Curator and Beekeeper Wendy Heger, AIA will give a talk and tour of ArCH’s current exhibition, The Architecture of Bees. Attendees will learn about the Association and be able to enjoy a taste of Honey Beer. For more information and to register, visit aiahouston.org.


Engaging Students in Civic Action and Science

Beginning July 19 and continuing through July 28, the Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation will hold a virtual Summer Institute introducing CELF’s Inquiry to Action Framework within the context of the classroom. Participants will learn the skills and knowledge to develop a project to engage student learning through inquiry, place and action. Pathways to topics such as water, biodiversity and air will be explored. Teachers will walk away with an Inquiry to Action project planner ready to implement in the fall. For more information and to register, visit celfeducation.org.


Bay Area Sierra Club meeting: Gardening with Native Plants

On July 20, from 7-8:30 p.m., the Bay Area chapter of the Sierra Club will hold a virtual meeting featuring a presentation by Debbie Bush, a member of the Native Plant Society in the Clear Lake area, who will discuss garden techniques for native plants in this region. She will discuss how to nurture native plants during a drought, native plants that are easy to grow from seed, and native plants that are easier to locate for purchase. For more information and to register, visit meetup.com.


Disaster Debris Funding Opportunities for Local Jurisdictions

On July 21, from 10-11:30 a.m., the Houston-Galveston Area Council will present a webinar about the disaster debris related funding opportunities available to local jurisdictions. Topics will include the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, and others. For more information and to register, visit h-gac.com.



The Economics of Nonpoint Source Pollution and Implications for the Texas Coast

On July 21, from 11 a.m.-noon, Clean Coast Texas will present a webinar featuring Sheila Olmstead, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, about the economics of nonpoint source pollution and its implications for the Texas coast. For more information and to register, visit eventbrite.com.


We The Power: Screening and Conversation

On July 22, beginning at 7 p.m. Central Time, Solar United Neighbors will host a virtual screening, followed by a conversation, of the film We The Power. The film follows friends, families and visionaries as they break down legislative barriers and take power back from big energy companies to put in the hands of locals. The film chronicles local cooperatives from deep in Germany’s Black Forest to the streets of ancient Girona in Spain and the urban rooftops of London, England, as they pave the way for a renewable-energy revolution and build healthier, more financially stable communities. For more information and to register, visit solarunitedneighbors.org.


Ecological Landscapes & Gardening

On July 23, from 8-11 a.m., the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center will host a volunteer event featuring for hands-on experience in the Arboretum’s gardens. Volunteers will learn to identify and landscape with native plants, including pollinator favorites and butterfly host species. These monthly outdoor projects are extremely rewarding and include planting, pruning, transplanting, weeding, and collecting seed from the Arboretum’s gardens. For more information and to register, visit houstonarboretum.org.


Plastic Free July Family Picnic

On July 23, from 9-11 a.m., the Memorial Park Conservancy will host a Plastic Free July Family Picnic at the Clay Family Eastern Glades, North Lakeside Pavilion. Master storyteller Leona Hoegsber will weave her magic with tales about creatures, the environment, and how to protect them. There will be interactive educational activities for kids and families. All are invited to come along, bring a blanket or a chair, and join us for a morning of learning and fun. No registration necessary.


Plastic/Trash Cleanup Volunteer Work Day

On July 23, from 9 a.m.-noon, Houston Audubon will host a volunteer cleanup of Rummel Creek clean up event. Volunteers are invited to come to Edith L Moore Nature Sanctuary to help staff remove plastic and other litter from the creek. Training and tools will be supplied on the day of the event. For more information and to register, visit houstonaudubon.org.




World Ocean Day Youth Advisory Council applications due July 27

The World Ocean Day Youth Advisory Council is a group of 20-25 young people from countries around the world who are already actively engaged in ocean conservation efforts in their communities. They come together to share their efforts with each other and the world, develop their leadership skills  to strengthen their impact, and inspire millions of other people to take action for our blue planet. The application period for the 2022-2023 cohort is now open through July 27. To learn more about the Council and to apply, visit worldoceanday.org.


Program funding opportunity: Improving Coastal Community Resilience with Green Infrastructure

The Gulf of Mexico Alliance’s Integrated Planning Cross-Team Initiative seeks to fund a green infrastructure project that will improve community resilience and reduce water pollution in one of three areas in Texas and Louisiana, including Brazoria, Chambers, Galveston, Harris and Jefferson Counties. Up to $41,000 is available for a 12 month project; matching funds are not required. Applications are due by July 29. Find the full Request for Proposals and Application at gulfofmexicoalliance.org.


Gulf of Mexico Youth Climate Summit

From July 29-30, the Consortium for Ocean Leadership will host the inaugural Gulf of Mexico Youth Climate Summit, which will unite young environmental stewards ages 15-25 from around the Gulf of Mexico and the U.S. The Summit will be dedicated to the preservation of the Gulf in hopes of protecting it from the dire effects of climate change and using it as a base for climate action all over the gulf territories. Participants will engage with fellow youth leaders and experts to engulf themselves in the conversations around the issues facing the Gulf and what they can do to contribute to the environmental movement in their own communities. For more information and to register, visit this Google document.


Houston Bird Week calendar submissions

Bird Week 2022 will be held Sep. 17 – 24, and Houston Audubon is looking forward to both in-person and virtual events reaching tens of thousands of people around the world. Due to increased interest and limited calendar space, Houston Audubon is implementing an application process for the official Houston Bird Week calendar. Interested organizations are asked to fill out the Bird Week event application form before August 1. The Bird Week committee will review all applications and respond within two weeks of submission. Please note that events will not be added to the Bird Week calendar until the application has been approved by the committee. Upon approval, they will reach out with further details and a partner agreement. For full information, visit houstonaudubon.org.


Texas Master Naturalist™ chapters seeking fall volunteers

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The Texas Master Naturalist™ program, funded by Texas Parks and Wildlife and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, is a corps of well-informed volunteers who provide education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities for the state of Texas. Several chapters are getting ready for a new crop of volunteers to for the fall 2022 training season. Houston-Galveston area chapters include the Galveston Bay Area chapter, the Gulf Coast chapter, and the Lower Trinity River Basin chapter. Learn more at txmn.tamu.edu.


CONTESTS

Youth Innovation Challenge 2022

The Youth Innovation Challenge, hosted by the Global Environmental Education Partnership, gives young people (aged 15–30) around the world a chance to come up with innovative solutions to a pressing environmental issue affecting our marine ecosystems, using environmental education as a key strategy. Organizers are looking for solutions that are innovative, feasible, and informed by research. Winning solutions will receive global recognition and a $1,000 prize. An Applicant Webinar will be held on July 21 at 8 a.m. Central Time to learn tips and tricks for submitting a strong Youth Innovation Challenge video pitch and proposal. Proposals must be submitted before September 1 at 11:59 PM U.S. Eastern Time. For more information and to register, visit thegeep.org.


Marine Debris Art Contest

Registration is open through September 1 for Artist Boat’s Marine Debris Art Contest. Artists and ocean-lovers of all ages can submit pieces to display at the art gallery. Art pieces are comprised primarily of marine debris and demonstrate the effects aquatic trash can have on our oceans and the life that depends on them. Art pieces must be brought to Artist Boat (13330 Settegast Road, Galveston) by September 23. The judging and viewing of the art pieces will be held on Oct, 8 at the Galveston Art League. For full rules and submission guidelines, visit artistboat.org.


2022 Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest

The National Marine Sanctuaries 2022 Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest is underway through September 5. All photographers, regardless of skill level or experience, are invited to participate. Each photographer may submit up to 10 photos (minimum of 1200 pixels wide) that tell the stories of the National Marine Sanctuaries, including Texas’s own Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Winning photographs will be announced in October 2022 as the Sanctuaries celebrate their 50th anniversary. For full contest rules and submission information, visit sanctuaries.noaa.gov.


2022 Wild “InSight” Photo Contest

TWRC Wildlife Center will host its 4th Wild “InSight” Photo Contest raises funds for the Wildlife Center operations and Animal Care Program. Submissions will be accepted through September 26. TWRC Wildlife Center is also seeking sponsors for its 2023 WildInSight Calendar. Contact Anna Saxton for more information. For more information, visit twrcwildlifecenter.org.


Reminders About Ongoing Opportunities

  • Plastic Free EcoChallenge. Throughout July, you are invited to consider joining either the Plastic Free EcoChallenge Lutherans Restoring Creation – Gulf Coast team or the Interfaith Environmental Network of Houston team. Contact Lisa Brenskelle, team captain, at gcs.lrc@gmail.com.
  • Buffalo Bayou Partnership 2022 Summer Species: Bees. Buffalo Bayou Partnership has announced its second annual Summer Species – BEES. Through August, BBP will take the Houston community on a deep dive into these busy little insects. At various locations, experts will lead workshops, walks, talks, and experiential activities for participants of all ages. For the full listing of events, visit buffalobayou.org.
  • The Architecture of Bees. Through August 26, Architecture Center Houston offers the exhibition The Architecture of Bees in the gallery of its headquarters at 902 Commerce St. Curated by architect and beekeeper Wendy Heger, AIA, The Architecture of Bees is an immersive educational visual arts exhibition that brings together designers, architects, naturalists, and beekeepers to illustrate the importance and influence of bees on human design and construction. For more information, visit aiahouston.org.

TV: Texas Parks & Wildlife

Broadcast on KUHT Channel 8 at 3 p.m. 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.

  • Follow a young Game Warden patrolling the sparsely-populated counties north of Abilene, and learn how he turned a tragedy from his youth into a career of helping others
  • Three sons take on management of their family ranch after the passing of their father, sustaining their father’s legacy of land stewardship, continually learning, and educating others on land management practices
  • The Helicopter Underwater Egress Training or HUET is part of NASA’s training for astronauts as well as the Coast Guard and other personnel involved in work over water. Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Wardens have a search and rescue team that go through this potentially life-saving training
  • In the heart of the Hill Country is the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, and here you can find the endangered golden-cheeked warbler. Join some biologists as they monitor these unique birds during their nesting season
  • A wait in the blind yields the colorful songbirds of Guadalupe River State Park

Additional Upcoming Events


Check out the latest Green Jobs at cechouston.org/green-jobs/.