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Chapter 5 Rewrite Final 9-20-11

Chapter 5 Rewrite Final 9-20-11

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Published by: editorial.online on Oct 11, 2011
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CHAPTER 5 – State of the Bay 2010
Physical Form and Processes
 By John B. Anderson
[Texas Bays] are a magnificent resource, shallow and brackish and marshybordered and rich withlife.... The flat land runs to the flat bays, and beyond the flat sand islands is the blue flat Gulf butit is dramatic enough for all that, because of the life that is there … . Nearly any memory of thatcoast has in it a sense of teeming life...
John Graves, in
The Water Hustlers
 Review Table Reference to to ensure correct citation
Twenty thousand years ago the earth was in the midst of an ice age and ice sheets in bothhemispheres were expanding. Expansion of the ice sheets was fed by water from the sea, to theextent that sea level fell an average of 100 meters across the globe. Then, when the ice age endedapproximately 17,000 years ago, meltwater from the ice sheets flowed back into the oceanscausing sea level to rise to its current level. It was during this rise in sea level that the estuaries of the Gulf Coast were formed, including Galveston Bay.Hence, the very existence of GalvestonBay is attributed to sea level rise. It is ironic that its future will be strongly regulated by the nowrising sea.
The Galveston Estuary includes Galveston Bay (Lower Galveston Bay), San Jacinto Bay (UpperGalveston Bay), Trinity Bay, East Bay, West Bay, and Christmas Bay (Figure 5.1Error:Reference source not found).These estuaries are situated landward of 2 prominent coastalbarriers, the Bolivar Peninsula and Galveston Island. The bay averages 2 to 3 meters in depth andastronomical tides average 0.3 meters, but vary seasonally due to variations in wind. Prevailingwinds are from the southeast, with occasional strong northerly winds that are associated withpassing cold fronts. Wind-driven tides of up to 1 meter above and below mean tide occur duringstrong winds. Storm tides during a Category 4 or 5 hurricane could be as high as 7 meters abovenormal water levels.Sediment supply to Galveston Bay flows primarily from the Trinity and San Jacinto rivers and toa lesser degree the many small streams and bayous that enter the estuary. The Trinity River1
CHAPTER 5 – State of the Bay 2010
drains an area of 5,500 km
and has an annual discharge of 7.1 billion cubic meters (m
). The SanJacinto River has an annual discharge of 2.4 billion m
. Both the San Jacinto and Trinity rivershave been dammed, but sediment delivery to the estuary may not have been significantly reduced(Phillips et al. 2004). The entire Galveston Bay Estuary experiences significant bay-shoreerosion, which contributes to the sediment supply of the estuary (Paine et al. 1986).In addition to the 5 main subbays, the estuary and watershed comprise a number of differentenvironments, each with its own unique set of processes and ecosystems. The following is a brief description of these other environments.2
CHAPTER 5 – State of the Bay 2010
Wetlands occur along the margins of the Galveston Bay Estuary and are a vital part of the bayecosystem. Wetlands are also the most rapidly disappearing component of the estuarine complex,due mainly to direct human intervention. Salt and brackish wetlands exist within 0.5 meters of mean sea level and are frequently inundated during spring tides and storms; these wetlands areadapted to submergence, but only for brief periods. As sea level rises, wetlands are able to3
Figure 5..
The Galveston Bay Estuary.

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