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Concerns grow over environmental condition of Little Bay

Posted at 5:41 PM, Jun 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-01 19:59:11-04

ROCKPORT, Texas — There's growing concern about the state of Little Bay as residents and environmentalists worry about how many pollutants flow into the bay daily.

The 350-acre Little Bay is where all of Rockport’s stormwater drains. Eleven drainage culverts empty into it, with more planned with more development.

Environmentalists estimate that 500,000,000 gallons of sewage flow into the bay every year. They say now is the time to act before it's too late.

“If the public knew what was going on there would be the political will to change this,” said Rockport resident Eric Von Seibert.

Having moved to Rockport in 2004, Von Seibert has watched Little Bay steadily decline

“There's been a huge change in Little Bay as far as fishing, swimming,” Von Seibert said. “You can see it; you can smell it.”

From his shop in Rockport Beach Park, The Pirate Shack, Von Seibert is leading the charge to save Little Bay. He's fought this battle before, two-plus decades ago, in Hawaii. He's ready to fight again.

“Little Bay is the jewel of Rockport and Rockport is the jewel of Texas as far as I'm concerned,” Von Seibert said.

More than 300,000 people visited the Rockport Beach Park, which sits between Little Bay and Aransas Bay, in 2021.

“If we lose Little Bay, we're going to lose the majority of the tourism, that is the economic generator of Aransas County,” Chairman of the Aransas Co. Navigation District, Malcolm Dieckow said. “Little Bay is a hotbed of bacteria; Little Bay is a hotbed of algae.”

Dieckow says scientific data shows the root of the problem is chemically polluted runoff, which finds its way into the bay through stormwater. The runoff forms algae, which over the years has killed all the sea grass once found in Little Bay.

“That's the first sign, the canary in a coal mine so to speak,” Von Seibert said. “That means the bay is dying.”

Stormwater, however, is just one of the bay’s problems. There’s also the sewage.

Despite the nearby treatment plants' efforts to keep the waste contained, researchers estimate between 1,000,000 and 2,500,000 gallons of waste effluent find its way into the bay every day.

Those numbers have Von Seibert worried about what would happen if a major storm were to hit Rockport this hurricane season.

“If we have a huge rain event and they had to open the flood gates at the sewage treatment facility, all that stuff is going to come into the bay,” Von Seibert said.

To help educate the public about the situation at Little Bay, the Navigation District is hosting a public forum at Rockport’s saltwater pavilion Thursday, June 2 from 6:30-7 p.m.

The group Save Little Bay was started by Von Seibert to help raise awareness.

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