Management Strategies for the Rincon Bayou Pipeline




Montagna, Paul A.


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Decreased inflow due to damming of the Nueces and Frio rivers has resulted in increasing salinity in Nueces Bay and caused Rincon Bayou to become a reverse estuary disturbing the overall hydrology of the adjacent Corpus Christi Bay. Adaptive management to perform hydrological restoration began in 1994 and continues today. The objective of the present study is to develop a set of recommendations and implementation strategy for management of environmental flows delivered to upper Rincon Bayou by the Rincon Bayou Pipeline. This information is needed to improve the environmental effectiveness of pumped flow deliveries to Rincon Bayou and the Nueces marsh. Change in water quality and benthic community structure were used as indicators of ecological effects. High inflow reduces salinity and introduces nutrients. Large and haphazard salinity fluctuations result in an often disturbed system populated by pioneer species, such as chironomid larvae and the polychaete Streblospio benedicti, during especially low and high salinity periods. Epifaunal organisms are mobile and capable of escaping unsuitable conditions, so the more immediate results of fluctuations in water quality is the lack of higher trophic marine organisms following pumping events. Results of time lags indicated that variance in diversity variables in response to changes in salinities occurred within the first few weeks after pumping. Immediate responses to salinity were not identified in abundance and biomass. Positive relationships between abundance and biomass, in response to salinity fluctuations, were evident after 6 to 8 weeks. A little bit of water pumped during dry times can have positive environmental benefits, and too much water pumped during wet times can have a negative influence and act as an ecological disturbance. The results of the infaunal and epifaunal analyses indicate that further changes need to be made to the Rincon Bayou restoration and management programs in order to reestablish a reasonably undisturbed ecosystem.






Montagna, P.A. 2019. Management Strategies for the Rincon Bayou Pipeline. Final Report to the Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program for Project # 1817, CBBEP Publication – 128. Harte Research Institute, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Corpus Christi, Texas, USA, 45 pp.