Creating a Voice for Galveston Bay: Galveston Bay Foundation’s Origin Story

  • March 06, 2020
  • News

In 1987, a diverse group of recreational, commercial and industrial Bay users put aside their differences and came together to protect their common interest – Galveston Bay.

They were concerned about two issues – 1) the Wallisville project set to dam up 20,000 acres of the lower Trinity River and create a lake that would inevitably damage the river delta and the ecosystem, and 2) the deepening and widening of the Houston Ship Channel. The group met in a classroom at Rice University and chose the name Galveston Bay Foundation, modeling itself off the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Together, the birders, boaters, sailors, bay residents, barge operators, industry representatives, and community activist groups created the first organization on the Gulf Coast that brought together various interest groups to serve as a voice for Galveston Bay.

“I’ll never forget the late commercial oysterman Joe Nelson in the same room with the founders of the recreational fishing group Gulf Coast Conservation Association (now known as CCA Texas), working together to create an institution for the Bay despite deep distrust and animosity,” said Jim Blackburn, Rice University Professor and founding chairman of the Galveston Bay Foundation. “Those moments set the stage for today.”

Galveston Bay Foundation’s first advocacy work was a success. The Wallisville project was completely redesigned after bald eagles were found nesting in the area. And after the organization funded an economic impact study of the Ship Channel project, and the depth and width to which the channel was dredged were eventually reduced. Both of these were wins for the Bay and propelled the organization forward to branch out in other areas. In the early years, those areas notably included hosting community-based marsh grass plantings, creating an oil spill response plan after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, educating groups and students through boat-based Bay tours and testing water quality through volunteer monitors.

Galveston Bay Foundation still works with various interest groups to preserve and enhance Galveston Bay for future generations. Now, you can find Galveston Bay Foundation in schools and communities, on the ground and on the water, working to protect the resource we’re all connected to. This year marks an important milestone in the Galveston Bay Foundation’s history, as it relocates to its permanent home on Galveston Bay and creates a place where the community can come to experience and learn about the Bay and what they can do to protect it. To learn more and to get involved, please visit