Texas Commission on Environmental Quality commissioner returns to RGV

BROWNSVILLE — Toby Baker and his family each had a bucket in one hand while gripping a stick with other picking up trash along the shoreline of Boca Chica Beach yesterday.

Baker, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality commissioner, was back in the Valley making good on a promise he made at last year’s Valley Environmental Summit held on the Island.

That’s when he announced he would spearhead an effort to clean the area of the Rio Grande where it meets the Gulf of Mexico.

He said the effort was to raise awareness about the importance of keeping the shorelines clean so humans and animals can enjoy them.

“I’m really excited and honored that Commissioner Toby Baker and his family joined the area TCEQ staff to come and address the trash that builds up here at the mouth of the Rio Grande,” said Sofia Benavides, Cameron County Pct. 1 commissioner.

She said the river brings in significant amounts of trash daily into the Gulf.

The debris cleaned up yesterday was a mix of trash that washed up from where the two bodies of water collide.

The trash buildup comes from Florida, Louisiana, Texas and Mexico.

The Brownsville beach is quiet and normally used by fishermen.

“I urge all of our residents to come here and use this beach,” Benavides said. “I grew up enjoying this beach.”

Benavides, along with a group of about 25 people, worked their way down from the international border picking up trash for nearly three hours.

The shoreline was full of plastic containers, sandals, fishing nets and other debris tangled up along the sand dunes.

Benavides said taking care of our surroundings and disposing of trash properly and not littering on the beach are important.

Nearly a ton of trash was picked up yesterday by the TCEQ staff and volunteers.

The small group of volunteers made up of county and TCEQ staff plucked up trash and debris that had washed up over time.

“This is a beautiful treasure we have here with the beach to come and fish and look for sea shells,” said Jaime Garza, TCEQ regional director.

Normally TCEQ staff is behind a desk or investigating environmental crisis due to human error or mechanical error impacting the environment.

But yesterday, state and area staff worked together doing their part to take care of the beach and take care of Texas.

“I’m really excited about being here today with our staff and the help that we have,” Baker said. “I feel like people forget that environmental stewardship starts with us and at home.”

He said in a perfect world it wouldn’t have to take a state agency to have to clean up.

Baker said this is the beginning of an effort to help keep Boca Chica Beach clean. He said he plans to spearhead at least two cleanup operations a year with more volunteers.

He said this is one of the best places in Texas and the United States and it should be taken care of.

The effort was made possible with the support of Benavides and Texas Rep. Eddie Lucio III who organized the proper disposal of the trash picked up.

“It was a really great effort,” Garza said. “I think we cleaned up close to a mile of beach shoreline.”

Rgarcia@valleystar.com