Grant to Initiate the GBRA/TAP Agreement

Goal to Address Long-Term Water Supply Needs in Guadalupe Basin and Safeguard Critical Whooping Crane Habitat

AUSTIN — The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) and The Aransas Project (TAP) undertook the first step in the implementation of The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority/The Aransas Project Agreement (GBRA/TAP Agreement), announcing the receipt of a grant from the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation (www.CGMF.org).

The Aransas Project

Whooping Cranes at Aransas NWR. Photo by Kevin Sims

The grant is to develop a strategy and action plan to advance implementation of the GBRA/TAP Agreement toward a shared vision for future habitat and water for Guadalupe River System and San Antonio Bay.

Developed in 2016, the GBRA/TAP agreement was reached after years of litigation over freshwater inflows for San Antonio Bay and the long-term success of the only remaining flock of wild whooping cranes in the world.

The agreement sets up a process by which GBRA and TAP will jointly investigate issues associated with the future of water usage and availability on the Guadalupe and San Antonio River systems and the freshwater needs of the whooping cranes. The work under this agreement will consider both habitat issues for the whooping cranes as well as long-term water supply and inflow issues.

Under this planning grant, GBRA and TAP are designing a process to engage key stakeholders throughout the Guadalupe River Watershed and neighboring San Antonio and Aransas Bays to inform the development of the strategy and plan to support implementation of the Agreement. This research will begin in June and will continue into the fall.

The intent of GBRA and TAP is to create a study and evaluation process that will ultimately propose distinct courses of action to ensure whooping crane habitat and long-term water availability for both humans and nature.

About The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority

The Aransas ProjectThe Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority was established by the Texas Legislature in 1933 as a water conservation and reclamation district. GBRA provides stewardship for the water resources in its 10-county statutory district, which begins near the headwaters of the Guadalupe and Blanco rivers, ends at San Antonio Bay, and includes Kendall, Comal, Hays, Caldwell, Guadalupe, Gonzales, DeWitt, Victoria, Calhoun, and Refugio counties. GBRA provides services that include hydroelectric generation; water and wastewater treatment; municipal, industrial, and agricultural raw water supply; and recreational operations.

About The Aransas Project

The Aransas ProjectThe Aransas Project was founded by a diverse group of organizations who believe that the whooping cranes, the Texas coast and the freshwater of the Guadalupe River Basin are essential to our way of life. TAP is committed to ensuring Guadalupe River flows from the Hill Country to the coast and for the protection of San Antonio and Aransas Bays and the endangered whooping crane. TAP’s membership includes governmental entities such as Aransas County, City of Rockport and Town of Fulton and non-governmental organizations such as the International Crane Foundation, American Bird Conservancy, Audubon Texas, Matagorda Bay Foundation, Houston, Coastal Bend and Travis Audubon Societies, Aransas Bird and Nature Club, Aransas County Guides Association and several Rockport-area businesses.

For more information, contact:
Todd Votteler, tvotteler@gbra.org or (830) 379-5822 and
Jim Blackburn, jbb@blackburncarter.com or (713) 501-9840

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Egg incubation underway by Wood Buffalo’s wild Whooping Cranes

by Chester McConnell, FOTWW

Important incubation period for wild whooping cranes

Whooping Cranes

Whooping crane adult tending to recently hatched chick – Wood Buffalo NP. Photo by Klaus Nigge

Wild Whooping Cranes on Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada are currently in the important period of incubating their eggs. In fact some chicks may have already hatched. So incubation of eggs and parenting chicks is the current focus of the wild Whooping Cranes associated with their record breaking 98 nests at Wood Buffalo. Attending their nest and incubating eggs is one of the most trying times for the cranes. One member of the crane pair must remain on the nest during most hours of the day. They normally lay two eggs which must be kept warm during the 29 to 31 days of incubation to successfully produce chicks. Importantly the eggs must also be protected from predators including raven, mink, black bear and fox.

Nesting survey a joint effort

whooping cranes

Raven stealing whooping crane egg – Wood Buffalo NP. Photo by Klaus Nigge

Mike Keiser of Parks Canada reported on May 31, that a nest survey was accomplished during May 18 – 21, 2017. Nest surveys are a joint effort by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), [Canada Wildlife Service], Parks Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories and as a partner, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This is the 50th year that the nest survey has been done. A second nest survey in July will measure the level of success of the current nesting. The final set of surveys will be done in August to determine the number of young chicks that survived to fledge.

Current habitat conditions for nesting whooping cranes

whooping cranes

Whooping crane family – Wood Buffalo NP. Photo by Klaus Nigge

Mr. Keiser told Friends of the Wild Whoopers (FOTWW) that habitat conditions were excellent for the nesting Whoopers with most wetland basins being full of water.” Good water levels are needed for a good hatch. This was the 50th year of annual surveys of the Whooping Crane population. Keiser explained to FOTWW that, “The large increase in nests from previous years is a result of two things; the arrival at breeding age of the large number of young that were produced during the period 2010-2013 and the excellent habitat conditions that provided an abundance of suitable nesting sites for the cranes.” This year’s survey located 98 nests, an increase of 16 over the previous record of 82 set in 2014.

Data gathering

Protecting and promoting ecological integrity is a priority for Parks Canada. Keizer stated that, “The data gathered each year allows us to track the health and growth of the Whooping Crane population, and allows us to assess the current state of their habitat, which Parks is directly responsible for. The Whooping Crane nesting area is one of the reasons why Wood Buffalo was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.”

Keizer elaborated, “2017 also offers an opportunity to celebrate this amazing recovery successes story of the Whooping Crane and take strides to advance protected areas and biodiversity as part of the celebration of Canada’s 150th.

***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****

Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.

 

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