CCA Funds Additional $375,000 for Habitat in 2019

John Blaha
CCA Funds Additional $375,000 for Habitat in 2019

The CBBEP Project will focus on the West Marsh of Matagorda Island restoring historic flows to bring new life to the estuary and will create roughly 3.5 miles of breakwater to protect eroded shorelines that will naturally rebuild through sediment deposition. (Photo Credit CBBEP)

CCA Texas’s habitat program, Habitat Today for Fish Tomorrow (HTFT), and Building Conservation Trust (BCT), CCA’s National Habitat Program, recently approved $375,000 in funding for three more habitat restoration and creation projects along the Texas coast.  This commitment brings the total commitment in 2019 to $900,000 and eight projects.

$100,000 – Sabine HI20 Nearshore Reefing Site

CCA Texas, BCT, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) kicked off the initial reef deployments in the Sabine HI20 nearshore site in the fall/winter of 2018. These included a barge, 200 granite blocks and concrete culverts. The HTFT committee and BCT both strongly believe in the continued growth of existing projects such as Sabine HI20. This funding is earmarked for future deployment and as match in the effort to secure more funds from other entities. Partnerships are key to making projects such as these happen and CCA Texas and BCT are committed to being the leaders to see them come to fruition. CCA Texas and BCT look forward to continuing the push to reef the Sabine HI20 site, and are targeting to have efforts in place to do so by the end of 2019.

$125,000 – Habitat Protection and Restoration at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

Hurricane Harvey was a destructive storm on many levels. Not only did Harvey destroy, damage and bring longtime changes to citizens and the infrastructure of Aransas and surrounding counties, it also caused significant damages to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and surrounding ecosystems.  Over time, the Blackjack Unit along San Antonio Bay has seen significant erosion due to storm events causing the loss of critical habitats.  Hurricane Harvey only exacerbated the erosion and caused further damage.

The Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program (CBBEP) will be partnering with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to address damages incurred at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge from Hurricane Harvey. Specifically, CBBEP will be working with USFWS to install a shoreline protection structure in San Antonio Bay that protects the habitats on the Blackjack Unit from erosion and storm events and, over time, restores upland and aquatic habitats that have been lost due to erosion. CBBEP will also work with USFWS to repair damaged water control infrastructure on Matagorda Island and restore water flow and circulation to important habitats, improving their quality for fisheries and other wildlife.

CBBEP will be working with USFWS to oversee the design and construction of a shoreline protection structure in San Antonio Bay that will stretch along a minimum of 3.5 miles of the Blackjack Unit shoreline. The structure will be designed to reduce wave energy from storm surge, tides, wind-driven fetch, and large boats, reducing erosion and the loss of habitat. The placement of such a structure will most likely be offshore where structures would not impede navigation. The structure itself will provide habitat for fish and other wildlife, and it will also be designed to allow for colonization of aquatic plants between the barriers and the shoreline, which will create additional habitat for fisheries and wildlife and will further diminish shoreline erosion. In addition to protecting and restoring habitat, the shoreline protection structure will also protect the visitor infrastructure at the Refuge (e.g., roads, trails, and buildings), which plays an important role in the local ecotourism economy by serving over 60,000 visitors each year.

On Matagorda Island, CBBEP with partner with USFWS to repair and replace levees and water control structures that were damaged by Hurricane Harvey. The goal of this project is to restore water flow and circulation, improving water quality, and increasing the quality of habitat available for wildlife in the 6,000-acre “West Marsh” area. The repaired levees and water control structures will also be protected with bulkheads, riprap, and other hard infrastructure to prevent damage from future storms. Restoring the levees and water control structures within the “West Marsh” will help restore and enhance the resiliency of a marsh system that supports significant numbers of fish, crabs, wintering waterfowl, whooping cranes, and shorebirds. CCA Texas and BCT are happy to be a part of this project that will help secure the health of this ecosystem for future generations.

$150,000 – RGV Reef Expansion

The RGV Reef and the Friends of RGV Reef (FRGVR) organization are the perfect example of what grassroots organizations and driven volunteers can accomplish. Through this driven can-do attitude exhibited by FRGVR, the vision of a “Life Cycle” reef is well underway in this 1,650 acre reefing site. To date, a shrimp boat and tug boat have been sunk, 500 manufactured pyramids, 90,000 cinder blocks, and 17,600,000 pounds of recycled concrete railroad ties, culverts, highway dividers, rip rap, and crushed concrete have all been deployed. Much of this material and area to store it has been donated within the Port of Brownsville, labor from many sources and endless volunteer hours make this all happen. The net result is a very modest cost per ton of material to create an incredible habitat.

What have all these materials constructed? The 90,000 cinder blocks have created valuable nursery patch reefs for hundreds of thousands of juvenile red snapper and other species. The shrimp and tug boats have created high-relief structure suitable for large predatory fish and diving opportunities for recreational divers. The concrete railroad ties have been used to build a 35 foot tall “mountain” on the bottom of the Gulf, and a 500 foot long ridge in the “CCA Corner” that stands 10- to 15-feet tall. Along with the cinder block patch reefs TPWD has deployed numerous reef pyramids.

Because of the continued success of FRGVR efforts, CCA Texas and BCT are proud to continue their support of this effort. With this additional $150,000 contribution, CCA Texas and BCT have now contributed $611,000 to the Rio Grande Valley Reef. This most recent contribution will be used with other funds raised by FRGVR to start the new 200-acre CCA nursery reef in the north east corner of the project site. Plans also include finishing the CCA Ridge, adding ten 200-ton patch reefs of concrete railroad ties to the CCA Corner, and placement of another fifteen 200-ton piles along the northeast perimeter of reef to armor the new CCA Nursery.

The Future

CCA Texas and BCT continue to explore funding opportunities up and down the Texas coast and welcome opportunities to partner with like organizations, academia, and government agencies.  If you or your company are interested in helping fund this critical work, please contact John Blaha at [email protected] or Patrick Murray at [email protected]