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Houston Ship Channel: A TMDL Project for Nickel

A completed project to limit nickel concentrations in the Houston Ship Channel. The TMDL is adopted and the I-Plan is approved. Together, the TMDL and I-Plan are the road map to improved water quality.

photo of the Houston Ship Channel

Houston Ship Channel
Photograph courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife

Counties: Chambers, Galveston, Harris
Parameter: Nickel
Basins: San Jacinto River, Bays and Estuaries
Segments: 1001, 1005, 1006, 1007, 1013, 1014, 1016, 1017, 2426, 2427, 2428, 2429, 2430, 2436

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Background and Goals

Data collected in the 1980s and early 1990s caused concern about dissolved nickel concentrations in the Houston Ship Channel system. Sampling associated with this TMDL project used improved techniques that revealed that the threat was much less severe than was originally indicated. Modeling analyses predicted that nickel concentrations could exceed water-quality standards in limited areas during conditions of low flow, but the probability of such an event is small. The goal of this project is to assure that nickel loadings remain below the target amount, and that the water-quality standard will continue to be supported.

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Public Participation

The TCEQ held an online public meeting on June 17, 2020 to discuss consideration of withdrawing the nickel TMDLs for the Houston Ship Channel. Houston-Galveston Area Council facilitated the meeting. A fact sheet about the proposed withdrawal and the meeting presentation are posted below.

Withdrawn: Total Maximum Daily Loads

TMDLs Withdrawn October 2020

In October 2020, TCEQ proposed to withdraw these TMDLs as unnecessary, demonstrating that the original nickel data that resulted in listing the water bodies was invalid, and that more recent, valid data indicate the water bodies are meeting the designated criteria. The withdrawal was submitted as Appendix I to the state's October 2020 Update to the Texas Water Quality Management Plan.

On March 8, 2021, EPA approved TCEQ's request to withdraw the 14 TMDLs for nickel in the Houston Ship Channel. The withdrawal request is provided below. 

Original TMDLs

The commission first adopted these TMDLs on August 11, 2000. The commission adopted revisions to the TMDLs on June 14, 2002. The EPA approved them on May 9, 2003, at which time they became part of the state's Water Quality Management Plan.

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Implementation Plan

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For More Information

Please e-mail us at and reference Houston Ship Channel in the subject line. Or call us at 512-239-6682.

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communities working together taking care of our rivers, lakes, and bays