CCA Texas 2020 Habitat Review

John Blaha
CCA Texas 2020 Habitat Review
Contractors plant part of 40,000 smooth cord grass plants over 8 acres in the Egery Island Flats marsh restoration effort. Photo by John Blaha.

This has been a year of many challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic brought challenges on every level of operation to CCA Texas. In the end, CCA Texas has remained strong and successful because of the diligent efforts of both volunteer and staff leadership, the efforts of local chapters, and the continued support of members and sponsors. CCA Texas staff has worked tirelessly with local chapters to host online auctions and other virtual events. The response from members and sponsors has been overwhelming and the support has been beyond what anyone expected in these trying times. Habitat restoration and creation has continued, and to date, CCA Texas and Building Conservation Trust (BCT) have contributed over $7.525 million to more than 40 projects since 2009.

Partnerships are crucial in habitat restoration and creation projects. CCA Texas works diligently with partners from all arenas including governmental, non-governmental organizations, academic, industry, and private foundations to make habitat projects become reality.  CCA Texas and BCT are proud to work closely with these partners including: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD); Texas General Land Office (TXGLO); Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF); Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program (CBBEP); Friends of Rio Grande Valley Reef (FRGVR); Friends of Sabine Reefs (FSR); Texas A&M & Harte Research Institute (HRI); Shell Oil Company; Sempra Energy; Cheniere Energy; Valero; Phillips 66; Motiva; Yamaha; CCA Music City Chapter; and others. This list alone shows the diverse partnerships needed to make habitat projects become reality.

CCA Texas and BCT support helped bring ten habitat projects to reality in 2020.  These projects included nearshore reefing efforts, marsh restoration, and oyster restoration.

Nearshore Reefing

Rio Grande Valley Nearshore Reef – Under the continued leadership of Friends of Rio Grande Valley Reef (FRGVR), this 1,600 acre nearshore site continues to receive materials for habitat creation.  In March 2020, concrete railroad ties and broken concrete were deployed in low-patch relief areas of the “CCA Texas" corner. This effort deployed 10,000 tons of materials in the 400 acre nursery area called the CCA Nursery. The deployment consisted of 54 low-relief durable nursery reef patches.  Each patch is made up with 25 tons of concrete railroad ties, 25 tons of broken concrete, and 6 pallets (420 blocks) of cinderblocks.  In addition, 16 patch reefs made up of 250 tons of concrete railroad ties each were deployed in a line north of the reef to provide protection to the nursery reef.  Capping it off, another 1,500 tons of material was placed in the SE corner of the reef site, known as the CCA corner.  In October, FRGVR sank the EMR - Capt. Berry, a 96’ steel shrimp boat.  This effort was followed up in November when a 78’ retired shrimp boat was sunk as the Genco Energy Services/Murray Meggison reef.  Plans included sinking two more steel vessels and more materials into the RGV reef site.  To date, CCA Texas and BCT have contributed $861,000 to the Rio Grande Valley nearshore reef site.

Corpus Christi MU775 Reef Site (Packery Channel) – In March 2020, 800 tons of durable nursery patch reefs were deployed within the MU775 reef site.  CCA Texas/BCT contributions paid for 400 tons, and Friends of RGV Reef donated 400 tons for this deployment. This project was made possible by CCA Texas funding to the RGV Reef site, and in turn FRGV matched the material tonnage for the deployment.

Sabine Pass Nearshore Reef – HTFT / BCT have committed $230,000 to the Sabine HI20 site.  This will deploy 150 pyramids into the site and be a part of the much larger TPWD project in the Galveston Big Man and Kate’s Reef sites.  The $230,000 in funding comes from: CCA Texas/BCT - $100,000; Sempra Energy - $100,000; and Cheniere Energy - $30,000.  This project was recently awarded and the contractors are currently setting up their construction plant to begin construction of the pyramids.  Deployment is expected to be completed in the second and third quarter of 2021.

CCA Texas and BCT worked with Forterra Pipe and Precast to secure 543 pieces of off-spec concrete pipe for reefing materials.  Through a $50,000 contribution secured by BCT, CCA Texas coordinated the shipment and receipt of this material.  Eldridge Construction in Sabine Pass has provided dock side storage for the materials. CCA Texas is currently working with Friends of Sabine Reefs and local recreational fishermen to deploy the materials in the second and third quarter of 2021.

Big Man / Kate’s Reef Site – CCA Texas, BCT and Shell Oil Company are providing $329,000 in funding for reefing efforts in the Galveston Big Man and Kate’s Reef areas that will provide an additional 155 pyramids and 75 additional low-relief modules.  This additional funding will supplement a $1.5 million effort by TPWD that will deploy 845 pyramids and 180 low-relief modules in these two sites.  This project was recently awarded and the contractors are currently setting up their construction plant to begin construction of the pyramids.  Deployment is expected to be completed in the second and third quarter of 2021.

Marsh Restoration

Dagger Island Shoreline Protection and Marsh Restoration – CCA Texas / BCT partnered with Ducks Unlimited to create critical shoreline protection and marsh restoration along Dagger Island in Redfish Bay.   This project enhances 557 acres of continuous seagrass beds, intertidal wetlands, and coastal islands in the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area through the use of a half mile breakwater and beneficial use materials.  The construction was completed in August 2020.  Funding for this project is provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program, CCA Texas, BCT, and Ducks Unlimited.

Egery Island Marsh Restoration - The Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program (CBBEP) received a grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation’s (NFWF) Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund for the project. The project replaced the old 30-inch round culverts with three 3’ x 6’ box culverts at each of the two locations. These new culverts have greatly increased water flow and restored critical hydrology.  This restored hydrology had immediate effects as salinity levels in the area began to drop and the water quality began to improve for more than 600 acres of emergent marsh, submerged vegetation, and tidal flats at Egery Flats. Prior to the start of construction, CBBEP worked with Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve (MANEER) at the University of Texas Marine Science institute and TPWD to collect valuable preconstruction data, including water salinity and vegetation monitoring. These data will be valuable in the evaluation of future projects. The evaluation and ongoing data collection will last three years beginning with the completion of the project.

In early October, contractors harvested and planted 40,000-plus native cordgrass plants that cover approximately eight acres. As the planted cordgrass takes hold and grows, it will then naturally expand, collect sedimentation, and restore acres of critical emergent marsh.  This portion of the project is being funded in a large part through $70,000 provided by CCA Texas and Building Conservation Trust.

Galveston Bay Foundation Headquarters Living Shoreline Restoration - HTFT / BCT funded $50,000 to this effort from funds through Shell Oil Company.  This project restores and creates a living shoreline of habitat adjacent to the new Galveston Bay Foundation Headquarters.  This project will not only restore and create habitat, but provide excellent community outreach for surrounding community students to better understand the local marine ecosystems.  Project work and construction was completed at the end of August.

Dollar Bay Shoreline Protection and Marsh Restoration – HTFT / BCT funded $50,000 to this effort from funds through Shell Oil Company.  This project is ready for construction Galveston Bay Foundation has received all bids, and awarded the project to move forward.

Oyster Restoration

St. Charles Big Tree Unit Reef Expansion – CCA Texas and BCT originally funded $75,000 in 2017 for an oyster restoration effort with Harte Research Institute to protect an eroding shoreline along the Big Tree Unit of Goose Island State Park.  This early project completed just prior to the arrival of Hurricane Harvey was a great success and HRI moved forward with plans to expand the reef site.  CCA Texas contributed an additional $50,000 through a contribution from Lone Star Beer’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Program that was used to expand restoration of 4,800 square yards of shallow oyster reef habitat along the shoreline in St. Charles Bay, part of the Mission-Aransas Estuary. This area has been federally designated (USFWS) as Whooping Crane critical habitat and currently experiences high erosion rates (2 acres in 20 years). The restored oyster reef will protect shorelines in this area and reduce erosion in lower-energy environments through enhancement or restoration of the coastal habitat. The project will have additional benefits of habitat creation for oysters, fishes, and crustaceans, and support for recreational fishing. Post-restoration, HRI is conducting seasonal monitoring to measure oyster population structure and restored reef development.

Sabine Lake Deep Reef Oyster Restoration – CCA Texas and BCT have contributed $200,000 to the restoration efforts of Deep Reef, located in the southwest portion of Sabine Lake.  CCA and BCT’s funds were included with $500,000 that TPWD received from Hurricane Harvey Relief funds to deploy 3,706 cubic yards of limestone ranging in size between one half and four inches.  This material produced 926 mounds, roughly 4 cubic yards per mound, with approximately 2 feet of vertical relief.  These mounds were placed on 25’ centers and construction will be completed by the end of November 2020.

Thank you!

CCA Texas and Building Conservation Trust are committed to the continued support and efforts to create a vibrant and thriving coastal habitat along the Texas coast.  These efforts are not possible without the continued support of members, volunteer grassroots fundraising, and the support of government and industry partners.  CCA Texas and BCT wish to thank every partner and contributor that helps make the vital work possible.

For more information about CCA Texas and BCT efforts, and how you can help, please contact John Blaha at [email protected] or Pat Murray at [email protected].

RGV Reef -

Dagger Island -