TCEQ awards Meadows Center $350,000 for Cypress Creek Watershed Protection Plan
The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University has been awarded a $351,101 grant from the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to implement Years 4-6 of the Cypress Creek Watershed Protection Plan (WPP).
The Cypress Creek WPP is the result of a six-year collaboration between numerous stakeholders working together to keep Cypress Creek clean, clear and flowing. After the plan was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and TCEQ in 2016, The Meadows Center began working with stakeholders to implement strategies that reduce stormwater runoff, pollution and protect flow for Cypress Creek and its tributaries.
Located in Hays County, the Cypress Creek watershed is a significant tributary to the Blanco River. Cypress Creek and its spring-fed source, Jacob’s Well, are considered major features for the Wimberley Valley and the people who live there.
Nick Dornak, director of watershed services for the Meadows Center, said the funds will be spread over the next three years to support efforts to build local investment in the sustainability of the Cypress Creek WPP through public engagement and policy work, with much of the funding allocated to outreach and education efforts.
“Our team will be working closely with local governments to ensure that we codify many of the activities and strategies that we have recommended throughout the process,” Dornak said. “The Meadows Center will continue to serve as the coordinator of the WPP. Ultimately, my hope is that by 2023 our role will evolve to guidance and consultation of a locally-led Cypress Creek WPP.”
The Meadows Center is currently wrapping up activities related to years 1-3 of Cypress Creek WPP implementation, with the latest being the city of Wimberley’s adoption of a new water quality protection ordinance. The ordinance sets standards for development to include best management practices that protect the watershed, such as setbacks from riparian zones and impervious cover limits.
Other implementation efforts have included regular monitoring and data collection, incorporating low impact development and constructing on-the-ground best management practices that prevent and mitigate pollution.
“This past year has been an exciting time for our team,” Dornak said. “We saw many projects through, including the first One Water school in Texas.”
Spearheaded by Dornak and David Baker, director of the Wimberley Valley Water Association, the One Water design for the school was approved by the Wimberley Independent School District Board of Trustees in June 2019. When it opens in fall 2020, the primary school will utilize a variety of One Water strategies to reduce groundwater usage from the Trinity Aquifer by 90 percent when compared to traditional construction standards.
“The One Water primary school will serve as our proving ground, our opportunity to show the community what a One Water development could look like,” Dornak said. “It’s going to be our show and tell.”
Moving forward, The Meadows Center will continue its One Water strategic approach to development and plans to work closely with its stakeholders and partners to support responsible development in the watershed.
“Another big project we will work on this year is implementing the Jacob’s Well Groundwater Management Zone (GMZ),” Dornak said. “This rule, as proposed, could provide groundwater districts and communities across Texas with an outstanding template for protecting their water supplies, their springs, and in the Texas Hill Country, the crystal clear surface waters that are so inextricably tied to our groundwater systems.”
The proposed Jacob’s Well GMZ would be a special management zone, covering much of the Cypress Creek Watershed, that applies a series of management strategies to protect the water supplies of current permittees and ensure sustainable flows from Jacob’s Well, particularly during drought or heavy usage conditions. For more information, visit the Hays Trinity Water Conservation District’s website at haysgroundwater.com/management-zones-draft-rules.
“We’ve had many projects in motion over the years, so the ability to actually get the One Water school done and get the Jacob’s Well GMZ to come together has created a groundswell of positive energy,” Dornak said. “We plan to continue pushing forward on these and other projects that align with the Cypress Creek WPP, and I feel like we have the partners in place to do it.”
For more information about the Cypress Creek Watershed Protection Plan, visit www.CypressCreekProject.net.