BISHOP, Texas – Utilizing community partnerships and leveraging local resources has been the driving force behind the Baffin Bay water quality study, which has spanned four-years. The study has been made possible thanks to a long-standing partnership between the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program (CBBEP), Dr. Michael Wetz, Associate Professor of Marine Biology at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and the Celanese Corporation. On June 20, the Celanese Corporation renewed that partnership with a second $150,000 check made out to the CBBEP, which will be used to fund Wetz’s Baffin Bay Study for another three years.
“This study serves as an excellent example of what can be accomplished when industry, academia and the community join under one goal – to improve the water quality of our bays and estuaries,” said Dr. Kelly Quintanilla, Interim President and CEO of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. “I thank Celanese for their continued commitment to the restoration of Baffin Bay and for their continued partnership, which provides opportunities for our students to solve real-world problems right here in the Coastal Bend.”
During the past four years, local citizens worked with Island University researchers and industry professionals to identify the cause of water quality changes in Baffin Bay, a Laguna Madre tributary. They discovered that the bay was deeply affected by an overabundance of an alga that causes brown tide. Since then, it has become increasingly important to find the cause of the algae because fishing in Baffin Bay is a significant economic factor for Kleberg and surrounding counties. In 2014, Celanese first became a partner in the Baffin Bay project by providing $150,000 in funding over the course of three years. During this most recent check presentation, Celanese renewed that partnership with an additional $150,000 that will go to support the Baffin Bay Study until 2020.
“This program is unique mainly because of all of the different partnerships and the community involvement,” said Rae Mooney, Project Manager for CBBEP. “We have financial support from industry, community volunteers working with environmental groups and researchers. Everyone came together to make this project happen.”
With the additional funding, Wetz’s team will continue water quality sampling to assess the impact of planned watershed protection and restoration efforts.
“I feel very hopeful, as we are getting a lot of support from leaders in the community who have the ability to make a real difference and solve the problem we have identified in Baffin Bay,” said Wetz. “Over the next three years I am optimistic that the community will be able to implement watershed restoration activities. Whether it’s working with industries, the city or working with the agricultural communities, I am hopeful that we will get these restoration activities going.”
CBBEP works with local governments, conservation groups, teachers, students and the public on researching and restoring bays and estuaries across the Texas Coastal Bend. Celanese, a global technology company and refinery, will serve as a member of the advisory board that helps guide future scientific studies within the Baffin Bay ecosystem.
“It’s part of our company culture to give back to our community while supporting the safety and protection of the environment,” said Brian Connelly, Site Director for Celanese’s Bishop Facility. “We are from this area; we enjoy fishing in the bay, we enjoy getting our families out in the bay and its important to us to understand why the bay is changing. We need to understand what may be impacting the bay and then be a part of the solution.”