San Antonio Bay group mulls nonprofit possibilities at meeting


June 24, 2010 at 1:24 a.m.

A plan that holds implications for the future of the San Antonio Bay is starting to come together after an ad-hoc group gathered Thursday in a meeting.

"Things are taking shape, and they're taking off," said James Dodson, who is coordinating the effort.

The San Antonio Bay Partnership - a coalition of government bodies, businesspeople and regular citizens - held its first meeting since reaching a consensus that it would like to establish a program to manage the resources in the San Antonio Bay system. The meeting took place on the University of Houston - Victoria campus.

The overall goal of the partnership is to bring into balance human and ecological needs.

Among the main discussion points at the meeting were funding, governance, goals and scientific studies to help draft the group's action plan.

Dodson said the partnership is leaning toward establishing itself as a nonprofit organization because of the flexibility it allows in terms of funding.

Similar programs, like the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program in Corpus Christi and the Galveston Bay Estuary Program, initially received funding from the federal government under the National Estuary Program established in 1987.

The program is no longer expanding, which has left the San Antonio Bay Partnership looking for other sources of funding.

Ray Allen, who directs the Corpus Christi program, said a possibility exists for more national funding in light of the Gulf oil spill, which ails the bays and estuaries off the Louisiana coast and in the Florida Keys.

"That could create a new focus on estuaries in the Gulf of Mexico," Allen said. But "I wouldn't trade their problems for any funding we might get."

Michael Baccigalopi, the area manager of the Texas General Land Office, was invited to speak at the meeting about Texas's preparedness for the oil spill.

He and staff in his Port Lavaca office are briefed daily on oil spill updates and the response efforts. The spill isn't expected to reach Texas shores, but if it did, the impact on marshes and estuaries could be devastating.

Baccigalopi said the General Land Office has laid out fire booms in the most sensitive areas, which includes the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, in case the oil reaches Texas.

"We respond to all ranges of spills - sometimes large, sometimes small and sometimes complicated," he said. "But we're out there everyday responding to these issues."

Should the group decide at the next meeting in the fall to become a nonprofit organization, its governing body would consist of at least a board of directors, Dodson said.

"It is an ad-hoc group," he said. "We have no government status, and that's one of the things we have to address is what do we want this to look like?"

He added, "We've managed so far to keep the momentum alive as an ad-hoc organization," he said. "But as we move much further down the road, we're going to need some more definitive structure."

The group plans to hold a two-day conference in the fall, when it will flesh out more details about the new organization.



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