Rebirth of Cedar Bayou

April 15 will mark a new chapter in the history of Cedar Bayou, the much-fabled and sometimes natural pass between Matagorda and St. Joseph Islands, on the middle-Texas coast.

Weather permitting and the whooping cranes headed toward their summer range of Wood Buffalo Park in Alberta, Canada; the fifth in a series of dredge projects to reconnect the Aransas-San Antonio bay system with the Gulf of Mexico will get underway.

Tales of Cedar Bayou are numerous and its lore captures historians as well as fishermen. The famed (infamous) Jean Lafitte is said to have used Cedar Bayou to escape the British Navy, its treacherously-shoaled channel too shallow for their large vessels.

A constant victim of longshore currents carrying sediments from as far as the Mississippi Delta; Cedar Bayou has struggled for more than a century to remain open. The earliest documented closing was in 1913 – reopened by the 1915 hurricane.

Reduced Guadalupe River inflow and ship channel construction have played a role, reducing the hydrology necessary to maintain the pass naturally. Prior restoration attempts were made by TPWD and its predecessor agencies in 1939, 1959, 1987, and 1995. Several major hurricanes blasted it open too – but longshore drift has been a constant nemesis.

The present restoration plan is unique in its engineering, featuring the reestablishment of neighboring Vinson Slough in conjunction with the major pass itself. The engineers say the one-two punch of Cedar Bayou and Vinson Slough in tandem will do the trick. And the permit secured by Aransas County contains a maintenance provision – just in case.

Restoring Cedar Bayou will be a boon to anglers who visit the Mesquite-Ayres region of the Aransas-San Antonio system. Fishing in a pass can be exceptional. Hopefully the new channel will also provide opportunity for anglers to safely beach their boats in the cut and walk to the surf.

Scientists pretty much agree to disagree regarding the value of Cedar Bayou as a migration corridor for species that spawn in the Gulf and rely on estuarine habitat during early life-stages. Time will reveal more, I'm certain.

CCA Texas, Aransas County Commissioners Court, the Bass family (owners of St. Joesph Island), and all the agencies, organizations and private donors who anted the required $9-million to fund this project deserve kudos – along with the many residents of Aransas County who beat the drum when nobody else would.

I plan to be there when "the sand flies"...more to come!