Killing the Alligator Snapping Turtles in Buffalo Bayou

(And Everything Else)

Appeal from the Turtle Survival Alliance

Nov. 12, 2020

Here’s a notice from the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) about the Corps of Engineers’ proposal to deepen and widen Buffalo Bayou for some 22-24 miles from the dams in west Houston to downtown:

“The Alligator Snapping Turtles of Houston, Texas, and their habitat, Buffalo Bayou, NEED YOUR HELP!

“A proposed project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) to reduce the impacts of flooding in the Greater Houston metropolitan area would not only significantly change the natural qualities of Buffalo Bayou, but also put its unique population of Alligator Snapping Turtles at risk of extirpation. This is particularly concerning to us at the Turtle Survival Alliance as the Alligator Snapping Turtle population inhabiting Buffalo Bayou is among the largest and most demographically robust populations in Texas, and of paramount conservation value to the species as a whole. We would know, it’s the focus of our long-term population study for this State Threatened species!”

The TSA, which has been studying the turtles in Buffalo Bayou since 2016, includes this quote from the Corps’ Interim Report on the project:

“It is fully anticipated that the existing population of Alligator Snapping Turtles would decline in the years during and following construction.”

The TSA believes that in a “best-case scenario” it would take approximately 100 years for the Alligator snappers to rebound from the Corps’ project.

Find out more from the TSA, which has written a formal letter to the Corps about the impact of the project. The nonprofit is also providing a document that can be downloaded and edited and sent to the Corps before the Nov. 20 deadline for public comments.


Eric Munscher of the Turtle Survival Alliance with Alligator Snapping Turtles on Buffalo Bayou.

2 thoughts on “Killing the Alligator Snapping Turtles in Buffalo Bayou”

  1. Jim Stevens says:

    As usual the perfect is the enemy of the good. If we push for multiple underground bypass tunnels the wild bayou can be saved. Instead there is intransigence on the preservationist side for by pass tunnels and the Corps will execute its usual “Bull in a China” shop approach to solving problems. Having grown up in South Louisiana I know first hand how solutions the Corps provides ends up in land loss and an irretrievably screwed up landscape.
    No solution other than bypass tunnels can handle the water volumes necessary to alleviate local flooding of homes along the bayou and maintain the semi-natural bayou as it exists.

  2. Matthew Berg says:

    Something else to keep in mind: the proposed deepening would drop the bottom of Buffalo Bayou below sea level all the way to nearly Chimney Rock. Alligator snappers can take some brackish water, but there’s a real risk of long-term increases in salinity that no amount of time would allow a population to recover.

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