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In the downdip Gulf Coastal Plain tectonic forces produce the primary features: alternating deltaic and inter-deltaic regions. The latter consist of the coastal lake-and-bay regions such as extend from Matagorda Bay to the upper Laguna Madre between the Brazos-Colorado and the Rio Grande deltas.

The bays, lagoons, barriers, passes, and the sandsheet in southwest Texas are the secondary features. They reflect a delicate adjustment to the physicochemical environment.

The principal agent of the physical environment is the surface wind. In addition to normal wind-work it controls the nontidal currents, surface waves, and the coastal-drifting processes. These distribute the sediments and shape the secondary features. When analyzing the importance of the wind a distinction must be made between prevailing winds, which blow most of the time, and predominant winds, which expend a greater amount of energy and usually do the greater amount of geologic work.

There are three major environments: continental, transitional, and marine. They can be recognized in the subsurface if interpretative Stratigraphie methods are employed, utilizing lithology, paleontology and electric log data.

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