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WOODS, WINGS & WATER: Lack of rice water impacts farmers, birds, economy

March 10, 2013 at 7:01 p.m.
Updated March 9, 2013 at 9:10 p.m.

This fall, rice acreage to hunt in will be at a premium with water supplies cut off to more than 50,000 acres of potential rice.

The drought lingers.

For the second consecutive spring, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) has decided to restrict the water supply to rice farmers for the coming growing season. The decision not only affects farmers but also the agricultural infrastructure of coastal communities that depend on rice for its economy. Furthermore, birds - namely waterfowl - rely on critical wintering habitat that rice crops provide along the Texas Mid-Coast.

"We understand that the LCRA must take a conservative approach when dealing with limited and unpredictable water resources ... however, withholding water from rice growers for a second straight year represents another setback for wintering waterfowl and an insurmountable economic challenge for local economies dependent on agriculture and waterfowl hunting," said Dr. Todd Merendino, Ducks Unlimited manager of conservation programs.

Texas Agrilife estimates rice contributes, on average, $374.3 million to the economies in Colorado, Wharton and Matagorda counties, not to mention 3,300 jobs. These figures do not take into account the revenue rice generates for waterfowl hunting and birding.

For every 10,000 acres of flooded ricelands lost, the region loses the ability to support 120,000 waterfowl. The current impact of the LCRA's decision cuts off water to more than 50,000 acres of ricelands used by waterfowl.

"If there is any silver lining, perhaps it is that the ongoing drought has increased awareness of the urgency with which the state should address water needs," said Kirby Brown, DU conservation outreach biologist. "We need to be working together across all user groups and geographies to conserve water resources every step of the way and to ensure that future generations of Texans, business owners, wildlife and waterfowl all have sufficient water to thrive in the Lone Star State."



MATAGORDA SEAFOOD FEST SET FOR MARCH 16

Few things in this world compare to a fresh-shucked Matagorda Bay oyster. I am blessed to live in Matagorda County, just minutes from Buddy Treybig's oyster operation, where the prized pearl producers are processed.

Treybig and other volunteers will have fresh Matagorda fried shrimp and oysters hot and ready when the third annual Seafood Fest starts Saturday.

The event is the brainchild of Treybig, created to highlight Matagorda and its seafood and marine industry while raising proceeds for Matagorda ISD, Matagorda Volunteer Fire Department, Matagorda Community Latchkey Program, Matagorda Ministerial Food Pantry and Matagorda Historical Society.

Treybig said $44,000 was given to these organizations last year.

Three bands will provide entertainment throughout the day beginning at noon, highlighted by Texas singer Larry Joe Taylor at 6 p.m. Oyster eating and shucking contests along with horseshoes - with prizes for first, second and third places - begins after lunch. Seafood plates will be served throughout the day, starting at 11:30 a.m. Vendors will be on hand to show their coastal wares.

For more information or to purchase advanced tickets, call 979-241-1534.

Bink Grimes is a freelance writer, photographer, author and licensed captain. He can be reached at binkgrimes@sbcglobal.net.

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