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Water Quality

Let's Improve Plum Creek Together!

Take a moment to participate the Town Branch Restoration Questionnaire.... Takes less than one minute. 

Town Branch Questionnaire

 

Introduction

 

Most of Caldwell County and parts of Hays and Travis Counties are in the Plum Creek Watershed, a roughly 400 square mile area that flows to Plum Creek, which in turn flows to the San Marcos River. All water that falls as rain or rises from springs makes its way to this common point after draining both rural and urban areas around Kyle, Lockhart, Luling, and many smaller communities. 

Our activities and actions here in Lockhart directly impact the water quality of Plum Creek. 

City of Lockhart Awarded TCEQ Grant 
The City of Lockhart was recently awarded a grant from the Texas Commission Environmental Quality (TCEQ). This grant combines Federal and State funds to be used to assist in improving the quality of the water in the Plum Creek Watershed which, ultimately flows into the San Marcos River and then into the Guadalupe River. The Plum Creek Watershed, San Marcos and the Guadalupe Rivers are a critical part of the Carrizo - Wilcox Aquifer Recharge Zone. A portion of the city's water supply does come directly from the aquifer by way of strategically placed city wells. 

The City of Lockhart is partnering with EPA, TCEQ, GBRA, Texas AgriLife Extension Service and the TSSWCB to work towards improving the quality of the water entering the watershed. The citizens of Lockhart play a vital role in the program. By eliminating grass clippings being blown into the street gutters and eliminating the use of phosphates in the process of washing our vehicles, sidewalks and commercial properties we can reduce NonPoint Source Pollution (NPS) and thus, reduce contaminates from entering the mid section of the watershed region for which the city plays a critical part. 

Residents can help by using biodegradable detergents when washing their vehicles, sidewalks and commercial properties. Washing of vehicles can also be done at local car washes that trap systems are utilized to prevent pollution from entering the creek systems around town. Biodegradable products can be purchased within our local retail stores. If for some reason you are unable to locate a product that states it is environmentally friendly, ask the Store Manager for assistance or request they begin stocking the items. 

The City Council took the initiative by passing Ordinance 2010-02 amending the Code of Ordinances in Chapter 48, Solid Waste by adding Section 48:47, prohibiting disposal of natural yard waste into streets and/or drainage facilities. This ordinance is currently in effect and we would like to request our residents to be mindful of the ordinance when performing yard work. This will help the community reduce pollution from entering the creek systems. 

By taking an active role in partnering with the EPA, TCEQ, GBRA, Texas AgriLife Extension Service and the TSSWCB, the City of Lockhart's residents can step to the forefront and be noted as a model for other communities to follow as an example of community conservation and protection of a vital resource...Fresh Water.

 

Plum Creek Water Protection Plan

 

When left in a natural state, streams are capable of performing myriad functions that are of value to humans, and the importance of these functions are the reason that humans have historically been drawn to live near streams and rivers.

 

Over the past decade, concerns about the degradation of Central Texas watersheds have led to a boom in the implementation of stream restoration projects. These projects are most commonly designed to improve instream and riparian habitat, stabilize streambanks, minimize the impact of non-point source pollution and enhance biodiversity. The City of Lockhart has taken the lead in sponsoring the restoration of Town Branch Creek that runs through the heart of the City.

 

The 2014 Texas Integrated Report identified elevated bacteria concentrations and concerns for impaired habitat, nitrates, and total phosphorus in Plum Creek, segment 1810_02. The report also listed Town Branch, segment 1810A, a tributary of Plum Creek, with water quality concerns for bacteria concentrations in excess of the standard, depressed dissolved oxygen, and excessive nitrate levels. In May 2016, the two-year geometric mean for E. coli bacteria at the Clean Rivers Program (CRP) routine monitoring station on Town Branch, located in Lockhart’s City Park, was well over the 126 per 100 ml standard for bacteria. Just upstream of the CRP monitoring station, the City of Lockhart observed the following situations as possible considerations within their park and urban trail lands: Non-contiguous areas of invasive exotic plants, channel aggradation and increased sediment deposition, areas of excessive erosion, areas of excessive algae growth.

The following are common hindrances observed in Texas riparian areas:

  • Farming, mowing, or spraying weeds or brush too close to the bank
  • Logging and related timber harvest activities adjacent to the creek
  • Manicured or altered residential or park landscapes next to the creek
  • Prolonged grazing concentrations in creek areas
  • Excessive populations of deer, exotics, or feral hogs in creek areas
  • Burning in riparian area
  • Removal of large dead wood and downed trees
  • Artificial manipulation of banks, channels or sediment (bulldozing)
  • Physical alteration of floodplain
  • Excessive vehicle traffic in creek area
  • Excessive recreational activity or foot traffic in creek area
  • Excessive alluvial pumping or other withdrawals
  • Excessive growth of invasive species that inhibit the ability of native riparian plants to do their job
  • Low water dams and large reservoirs
  • Poorly designed road crossings and bridges

 

Underlined above are some of the issues facing Lockhart that can be easily addressed by Best Management Practices (BMP). Some of the BMPs that will be used include Grow Zones, Rain Gardens, Interpretive Signs and the removal and replacement of non-native vegetation.

 

Grow Zones

 

These areas can be found all along Lockhart’s Spring Walkway and other locations found within the Parks System that are adjacent to Town Branch. The city has implemented these Grow Zones by letting the native vegetation to grow up and help stabilize the creek bank. This helps with erosion and helps filter out some contaminants. Historically mowing crews have mowed as close to the creek as possible. Though it looks better to the untrained eye it actually causes more damage than it helps. At first it looks unmaintained and rough but after secession takes place the unsightly species will start to be replaced by more attractive plant species.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rain Gardens

 

Gardens to treat storm water runoff from parking lots, roadways, or driveways through temporary collection of the water before infiltration are sometimes called rain gardens or known as bioretention.  They are slightly depressed areas into which storm water runoff is channeled by pipes, curb openings, or gravity.  They are usually designed to handle a one-inch rain, or what is called the first flush of a rainfall. Any type of soil can conceivably be used with the exception of shrink-swell clays.  Vegetation placed in the garden should be tolerant of wet periods but not “wetland obligate” plants as the garden will not hold water for long periods of time. Rain gardens can help mitigate water quality issues.  Plant nutrients (especially phosphorus) may be adsorbed to soil particles or taken up by the vegetation in the garden. Sediment may be removed through sedimentation as the water is held temporarily. Metals may be adsorbed to soil particles or organic matter. Pathogens may be destroyed through microbial processes in the soil, or through exposure to sunlight and dryness.

 

 

 

 

Interpretive Signs

 

Public education is key for any successful project. What better way to educate the general public than with interpretive signs? These signs will allow for easy understanding of the steps the City of Lockhart is taking to promote a healthier creek. A picture is worth a thousand words states the old saying and this could not be truer for interpretive signs. Illustrations of the processes make it easier for the complex concepts to sink in to the young minds of children as well as many adults. These signs can also help identify unwanted non-native species and help identify the plant species native to Central Texas that we are trying to get established. This is also an opportunity to explain the benefits of these species within riparian areas.

 

Removal and Replacement of Non-Native Plant Species

 

One of the problems facing Town Branch Creek is the invasive non-native species (Arundo and Elephant Ears). These species can be devastating to Texas riparian zones and they are easily spread. They can change flood patterns, divert waterways, degrade native wildlife habitat and cause bank erosion. Attempting to remove these problem species can cause more issues if not done properly. Mowing, tilling and shredding are not useful with these species. For one they are usually found in very sensitive areas that can erode once removed so immediately after manual removal another native species must be planted to take its place.   

 

  • Flyers
    Education Corner
  • Companion planting
    Companion planting. This is another way of working with nature. Some plants emit chemicals from their roots or leaves, which repel pests. As an example, tomatoes repel caterpillars from diamondback moths, which like to chew on cabbage leaves. So, instead of using a pesticide for moths on cabbage, try planting the cabbage near your tomatoes. The combination and benefits of companion planing is endless. For more beneficial combinations look for information and tips when you purchase the plants.

    Discarding trash or yard waste
    Never discard trash or yard waste down storm drains or in the street. Do not sweep yard waste into the street.

    Dispose of pet waste
    Dispose of pet waste properly. Pet waste left in yards can be a pollutant (in the form of E-Coli bacteria) to water in creeks, rivers, and lakes.

    Go "mostly" organic
    Go 'mostly' organic in your lawn and garden. This is a great way to reduce your impact on the environment. You don't necessarily have to go 100% organic either. Try out a few organic pesticides or fertilizers and see what works for you! By going mostly organic in your garden, you'll help to stimulate beneficial soil organisms, reduce harmful wastewater runoff, and create a healthier place for your pets and children to play.

    Limit pesticides and fertilizers
    Limit the use of pesticides and fertilizers in your yard. Try using biodegradable products that do not harm the environment whenever possible.

    Maintain your vehicles
    Properly maintain your vehicles to prevent oil and gasoline leaks. If you change your own oil, don't dump the used oil on the ground or in the trash. Take used oil to the Lockhart Recycling Center.

    Plan what you plant
    Plan what you plant. It's a fact of life that your plants will attract pests. You can minimize this problem by growing plants native to Texas. These plants are typically more resistant to pests and require less insecticides and pesticides.

    Use chemicals safely
    Use lawn chemicals safely. Always follow label instructions and never apply before rain or watering the lawn, unless label instructions direct you to do so. 

    Washing cars
    If you wash your car at home, use biodegradable products.

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