CCA Texas Habitat Creation and Restoration Surpasses $10 Million

John Blaha
CCA Texas Habitat Creation and Restoration Surpasses $10 Million
The RGV Reef offers habitat for many species and age classes. Photo Courtesy of Gwyn Carmean.

CCA Texas’ commitment to habitat creation and restoration has now surpassed $10 million in funding to projects up and down the Texas coast. To date, CCA Texas and its habitat initiative, Habitat Today for Fish Tomorrow (HTFT), has been a partner in forty-seven projects along the Texas coast. These projects have included oyster reef restoration and creation, marsh restoration and shoreline protection, living shorelines, nearshore reefing efforts out of every port in Texas, restoration of historic flows to Cedar Bayou into Mesquite Bay, and other habitat-based projects.

Habitat restoration and creation is a complex and expensive endeavor for any project. These projects often have many partners that include government agencies, academics, local grassroots groups, and local industry partners. Without these partners, many projects would never leave the conceptual stage, much less reach the construction phase. CCA Texas and Building Conservation Trust (BCT), CCA National’s habitat initiative, provide primary financial support to projects. There are however some projects that CCA Texas and BCT have executed with the support and oversight of governmental agencies, and other partners. Funding is, however, CCA Texas and BCT’s primary support to these efforts. CCA Texas and BCT also participates in the planning process of many projects. One example of this is CCA Texas’s participation in the long-term planning process for oyster restoration efforts along the Texas coast. CCA Texas has staff members that participate on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Oyster Restoration and Management/Regulations committees. CCA Texas staff and volunteers also sit on several work groups focused on restoration efforts along the coast. These work groups included those led by government agencies and academic institutions.

CCA Texas has approved $731,250 for five projects in 2023. The projects include some new and some that CCA Texas has earlier helped fund various phases of the projects.

$200,000 – Nearshore Reefing by Friends of RGV Reef (Friends of RGV Reef)
It’s been written many times and proven through years of volunteer efforts that Friends of RGV Reef (FRGVR) are one of the prime examples of grassroots efforts to get things done. Gary Glick, President of FRGVR, has led an effort not seen many times before by a small group of volunteers. The 1,600 acre RGV Reef features many different types of reefing materials including, pyramids, culverts, concrete railroad ties, small concrete blocks/bricks, concrete rubble, sunken vessels, and more. These materials have been deployed in many different ways, which has ultimately led to a “life cycle reef” that provides cover and habitat for many species of different ages. CCA Texas has been committed to the RGV Reef since the early planning stages and looks forward to seeing this latest round of funding result in new nearshore habitat. With this latest funding, CCA Texas has now committed $1,061,000 to this long-term project.

$226,500 – St. Charles Bay Big Tree Unit Living Shoreline and Oyster Reef Creation (Harte Research Institute)
CCA Texas has been a part of the St. Charles Bay Big Tree Unit Living Shoreline since its first phase in 2017. The 2023 funding of $226,250 included $50,000 from Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and finished reefing the site with an additional six new reef beds.

CCA Texas originally partnered with Harte Research Institute for this living shoreline project in St. Charles Bay along the Big Tree Unit of Goose Island State Park in August of 2017. CCA Texas and BCT originally funded $75,000 along with funds from TXGLO, USACE, NMFS and others. Phase I resulted in seven reef beds constructed along the Big Tree Unit. The second phase of this restoration and creation effort took place in the spring of 2020. CCA Texas once again provided funding in the amount of $50,000. These funds were secured through the Harvey Relief Fund donation from Lone Star Breweries and were part of an effort that created an additional ten reef beds. In the spring of 2022, Phase III placed an additional twenty-one reef beds in the site. In Phase III CCA Texas contributed $360,000 to the project. This included $100,000 from Lone Star Breweries and $60,000 from Cheniere Energy. This additional funding allowed HRI to expand the Phase III effort by an additional six beds, from the fifteen originally planned. To date, CCA Texas has funded $711,250 to the St. Charles Bay Living Shoreline project. The funds have included those from the grassroots banquet fundraising efforts from across the state and supporters such as Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Lone Star Breweries, Cheniere Energy, and others.

$225,000 - Mesquite Bay Oyster Reef Monitoring (Harte Research Institute)
CCA Texas was very active in support of the TPWD Commission decision to permanently close the Mesquite Bay system for oyster harvest in November 2022. CCA Texas worked closely with TPWD, Harte Research Institute, and many other organizations to gather the support and data that ultimately brought the decision to close the Mesquite Bay system permanently. With this effort, comes the responsibility to see that a scientific approach is in place to measure the effects of a permanent closure.

The goal of this project is to monitor oyster reefs in the Mesquite Bay Complex to understand the effects of newly implemented harvest closures and upcoming reef restoration of oyster population recovery. Long‐term success of oyster reefs will depend on larval oyster settlement as well as survival and growth to larger size classes. Oyster sampling will occur in spring and fall annually, during periods of peak recruitment at six sites across the Mesquite Bay complex: (1) Carlos Reef Natural, (2) Carlos Reef Restored (TPWD planned restoration site), (3) Cedar Reef Natural, (4) Third Chain Natural, (5) Ayers Natural, and (6) Ayers Restored (HRI/CCA/FlatsWorthy priority restoration site). Site selection builds upon our 2022 monitoring of Mesquite reefs and incorporates stakeholder feedback from recent workshops focused on identifying and prioritizing areas for reef restoration within Mesquite Bay.

CCA Texas is committed to a continuous recovery effort for oyster reefs across Texas and this funding along with the August 2023 commitment of $5 million will help the oyster resources in Texas for decades to come.

$30,000 Marsh Restoration - Brazoria & San Bernard Wildlife Refuge (USFWS)

This project will use smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) plantings to protect coastal estuarine marsh from ongoing erosion at San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge and ensure continued protection of nearby communities from storm events. The refuge is a significant protective buffer from tropical storm damage. However, major storm events, heavy rains, and continuous wave action consumes roughly four feet of refuge marsh shoreline annually along the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway (GIWW). The refuge recently finished 1.4 miles of breakwater to minimize erosion by the town of Sargent and this was the final phase for a total of 5 miles completed. Sediment will accrete behind these breakwaters and support marsh establishment. Planting smooth cordgrass behind breakwaters initiates new marsh creation while also creating a strong living shoreline to protect against future storm events. CCA Texas has committed $91,000 to this effort to date in the San Bernard and Brazoria refuges.

$50,000 Newcomb Bend Marsh Restoration (TPWD)
The proposed project is Phase 1 of a project to protect approximately 2.5 miles of shoreline and 280 acres of estuarine marsh habitat at Newcomb Point and Newcomb Bend, collectively referred to as Newcomb Marsh, in Copano Bay. This will be a multi-phase project and CCA Texas funds are a part of community match dollars in order for the project to move forward. This contribution will allow TPWD to begin construction much earlier and help control future cost escalations if the project was delayed in the future due to funding cycles.