According to the Galveston Bay Foundation and the Houston Advanced Research Center, Galveston Bay received a C grade, the same as last year. While the grade reflects improvement in the watershed’s overall health, it also acknowledges the tremendous challenges the bay faces such as habitat loss, pollution, climate change and invasive species.
Oil spills have long played a role in fouling the bay’s waters. In 2014, more than 168,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Houston Ship Channel when a barge collided with an oil tanker. That oil spill and others earned a D in the pollution category last year.
One of the biggest threats facing the bay is habitat loss. The bays’ wetlands play a crucial role in the watershed’s health.
Wetlands was described as like a person’s kidneys, filtering out pollution that would otherwise run into the bay. They also provide some flood control by absorbing rainfall and slowly releasing it back to the watershed.
Galveston Bay lost 30,000 acres of freshwater and saltwater wetlands from 1953 to 1989, plus an+ additional 13,538 acres of freshwater wetlands between 1996 and 2010.
“We are still dealing with historic losses of sea grasses throughout the bay, though there has been recovery in areas such as West Bay where we’re starting to see some sea grasses come back,” said Lisa Gonzales of the Houston Advanced Research Center.
While some pollution continues to be a threat, the bay has been brought back to life efforts to restrict dumping waste into the water, and the rivers that feed it, and better watershed planning.
“We’re not going to get a straight A tomorrow, but we can plot a path hopefully 10, 20, 50 years down the road to improve the health of the bay,” said Bob Stokes, of the Galveston Bay Foundation.