Larry Bozka’s Outdoor Blog

And The Rain Came Down

It was bound to happen, everyone said.

“Sooner or later, we have to get rain.”

It came later. So much later, in fact, that despite its intensity it's not likely that today's abundant rainfall throughout much of South Texas is going to significantly offset the negative impact of the longest-running drought in recorded Texas history. It's going to take a lot more water than what fell from the skies in the past 24 hours to heal that particular wound on the landscape.

Still, no one is complaining.

Almost no one, anyway.

I couldn't help but notice the Facebook post from the fellow who was mortified that his area had only received 1.25 inches as opposed to the two or more inches of rainfall recorded in adjacent counties.

There's just no pleasing some folks.

Those who pay attention to such things, specifically us, know that when it comes to rain, it counts every bit as much where the water is delegated as it does where it falls. It's no secret among coastal anglers that our saltwater bays and estuaries are getting the short end of the stream.

Fresh water is the virtual life blood of a healthy coastal nursery. Every June for the past several years, Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine has dedicated an entire issue specifically to the issue of water and how this all-too-precious resource is being utilized throughout the state. And again, just as critically, the fact that Texas bays are getting scant leftovers in terms of freshwater inflows.

Everything from shrimp to blue crabs to oysters and finger mullet clings to life, and comes to life, through the bounty of fresh water. Between growing municipal demands, and the increasing pressures of highly sophisticated industrialized agriculture, saltwater forage species are being squeezed inside a vice that seems to grow increasingly narrow and non-resilient each and every year.

The contest for this God-granted resource is nothing new. LBJ said decades ago that the biggest war in Texas would ultimately be fought not over oil, but water. Even then, while the State of Texas was busily carving and filling brand-new reservoirs like Sam Rayburn, Livingston, and others between the hills, valleys, canyons and forests of the most geographically diverse state in the nation, the late president understood a simple fact:

Water ... the type that falls from the skies, fresh and (relatively) clean ... is not an infinitely abundant resource.
If the sun-charred landscape of the last 18 months or so has taught us nothing else, all of us have at least learned that much. So now it's up to us to divide the proverbial pie.

Painful as it is, and expensive to boot, we have to work together to see to it that all user groups, from electric power generators to the state's vast community of farmers to the people of Texas cities and towns, respect that least respected portion of the Texas landscape ... the vast, 600-mile-plus crescent we call the Texas Coast.

Countless species, from waterfowl to whooping cranes to myriad food and game fish and shellfish, are counting on us.

A veteran TPWD biologist once told me that when people look at a 100-acre wheat field they see food. The same people, looking at 10 acres of wetlands, see a mosquito-infested swamp. Yet, he explained, in terms of yield a single acre of marshland produces exponentially more than even the best fertilized and most carefully maintained cornfield in the nation.

I will gladly concede the mathematical and biological logistics and statistics to those who have spent years, and often lifetimes, studying the impacts of freshwater inflow upon saltwater environments. I can only state with certainty that the equation, however it's ultimately determined, is vitally important to all of us.

Yes, I am a passionate saltwater fisherman. Hell, I love to fish the lakes, too. They need freshwater as well, and not only for people to drink.

But I am also someone who has witnessed the merciless sledgehammer effect of a Category-Three hurricane ushering to shore a 15-foot-high storm surge. My wife and I, like so many others, lost our home to that storm, along with safely 80 percent of our possessions.

We all know that Hurricane Ike did a number on the Galveston area. What many do not realize, though, is that for every single mile of healthy marsh wetland an incoming storm surge can be lowered by a foot or more.

Do the math.

At the same time, new wetland habitat of even very modest proportions can and will yield immense benefits to those who live hundreds of miles from the nearest coastline. Want lower insurance? Love seafood, or shorebirds, or water that is effectively filtered by a marsh better than any manmade system devised?

I could go on.

Do a little homework on this. You might be amazed.

Somewhere in between learning where and how we can most effectively catch fish and enjoy the sport we all so greatly love, if we can dedicate only half as much effort into educating ourselves about freshwater inflows and how incredibly much they benefit coastal bay systems we can all say in earnest that we are working toward the benefit of mankind ... corny as that may sound.

God shall provide. He certainly did so today. But what we do with His blessings, and how much we can collectively gain from them, is entirely up to us.

One way or another, sure as the next strangler of a drought, it’s bound to happen.

Larry Bozka
Coastal Anglers
Contributing Writer/Saltwater - Tide Magazine, Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine, Texas Sporting Journal