Town Branch Creek, a small tributary of Plum Creek located in downtown Lockhart, was listed on the Texas 303(d) list for concerns with bacteria, nutrients and low dissolved oxygen levels in 2014. Sedimentation from urban runoff and agriculture resulted in degraded habitat for aquatic life in Town Branch Creek.
In May 2016, the measured level for E. coli bacteria at the monitoring station on Town Branch, showed a 200 percent increase from the previous two-year figure. Just upstream of the monitoring station, several situations were observed as possible causes for the degraded water within the City of Lockhart’s park and urban trail lands. There were:
- Non-contiguous areas of invasive exotic plants
- Channel aggradation from increased deposition of sediment
- Areas of excessive erosion, or degradation
- Areas of excessive algae growth.
Work to improve water quality in Town Branch was initiated in 2017 with a federal grant to improve stormwater management in Lockhart’s City Park. The City of Lockhart and other project partners began to implement best management practices (BMPs) in the upper watershed in order to slow and filter runoff from stormwater and decrease sedimentation.
This restoration work included thorough evaluation of Town Branch Creek’s riparian areas and development of a restoration program, including low impact development (LID) features in the park and building a rain garden using special native plants to catch and hold excess water during rain events. Further, the City is providing outreach activities and permanent educational signs to involve the community in riparian awareness and protective practices.
Many partners collaborated in the restoration of Town Branch, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ), Nueces River Authority, and the Plum Creek Watershed Partnership. TCEQ provided staff hours to administer $235,052 of USEPA CWA section 314(h)/319(h) funding that was provided for the Town Branch Restoration. The City of Lockhart provided $94,020 in local funds for supporting contract administration, designing and implementing BMPs, conducting project information and education outreach efforts to stakeholders, and evaluating possible participation interests.