New Texas Laws Protect Seagrass, Control Aquatic Invasives

AUSTIN June 25, 2013 – Two of the dozens of bills that came out of the 83rd Texas Legislature affect boaters, anglers and other Texas Parks and Wildlife Department stakeholders.

One measure is a new law that will expand seagrass protection coast-wide. The other authorizes rules requiring boaters to drain and dry their vessels to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species like zebra mussels.

House Bill 3279 establishes a statewide law that makes it illegal to uproot seagrass in all coastal waters. This is similar to an existing TPWD regulation in the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area near Rockport, where it is Class C misdemeanor to uproot seagrass with a motorboat outboard propeller. In connection with the bill, TPWD plans to enhance its ongoing coast wide seagrass educational campaign to inform boaters. The bill takes effect Sept. 1.

House Bill 1241 enhances TPWD’s ability to prevent the spread of invasive aquatic species, especially zebra mussels in fresh water.

Specifically, the bill gives the TPW Commission authority to enact rules to directly require boat operators leaving public lakes or other public waters to drain water from their vessels. This is intended to prevent the unintentional transportation of invasives to other fresh water bodies. It does not apply to salt water.

The new rules could be strategically applied to infested waters and nearby waters with a high risk of infestation. Enactment of new rules authorized by this law requires commission approval, which will occur later this year and will include opportunity for public comment.

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