CCA Texas Participates in Smooth Cordgrass Seed Harvesting for Dickinson Bayou Wetlands Restoration

Kim Ogonoski
CCA Texas Participates in Smooth Cordgrass Seed Harvesting for Dickinson Bayou Wetlands Restoration
Jan Culbertson and Matt Singer collecting cordgrass seed.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Dickinson Bayou Wetlands Restoration Project will utilize a previously proven technology and conservation approach to maximize the restoration of up to ten acres of intertidal marsh complex habitat and enhancement and protection for up eighteen acres of existing intertidal emergent marsh. This technology and conservation approach has been extensively used for restoring wetlands and enhancing fish and wildlife habitats during the widening and deepening of the Houston Ship Channel.

This project includes constructing approximately 2,405 linear feet of earthen containment berms and 1,818 linear feet of rock-armored earthen berms to protect the 27.7 acre restoration site. Approximately 28,521 cubic yards of clay material will be used to construct three containment areas, and approximately 6,545 tons of limestone rock will be placed on the outer slopes of these earthen containment berms. Intertidal marsh complex will be created inside these containment units by mechanically or hydraulically dredging approximately 81,735 cubic yards of material from the shallow water areas within the main channel, designated as the project's borrow site. These sediments will be placed at specific elevations to create intertidal and high level marsh habitat.

"Without this project," said Jan Culbertson, Coastal Ecologist for TPWD Coastal Fisheries, "the existing marsh would be lost through conversion to open-water habitat in the next twenty-five years."

This restoration project will protect existing habitats, restore wetland habitats, increase water quality functions in an impaired water body, enhance recreational fishing opportunities, and provide erosion protection for wetland habitats that are integral to the Texas Gulf Coast and the Galveston Bay estuarine ecosystem. The direct benefits of this project will result in improved fish and wildlife habitat, increased productivity of nursery fish and benthic species, as well as improved water quality and storm water filtration in Dickinson Bayou. Additional benefits of this project will provide increased natural resource educational opportunities and boating access to Dickinson Bayou.

Coastal Conservation Association Texas (CCA Texas) is a non-profit marine conservation organization comprised of tens of thousands of recreational anglers and coastal outdoor enthusiasts. CCA Texas has provided $75,000 in funding to the Dickinson Bayou Wetlands Restoration Project.

"I think the biggest challenge for most of these projects is funding," said Matt Singer, Conservation Lands Manager for the Galveston Bay Foundation. "Funding is a major issue that we run up against. Fortunately we have great project partners like Coastal Conservation Association."

In November 2013, CCA Texas observed and took part in the collection of smooth cordgrass seeds in Dickinson Bayou. These Spartina alterniflora seeds are undergoing a stratification and storage process overseen by USDA Coastal Conservationist Scott Alford at NRG Energy's EcoCenter. Once this process has been completed, the seeds will be distributed in the marsh grow-out ponds at the NRG EcoCenter later this year. These seeds will grow into mature plants that will be planted after the construction has been completed. Stratified seeds may also be distributed directly in the marsh containment cells at the project site in order to jumpstart growth of the marsh while the borrow material is still settling.

"It's the first step in restoration projects," said Michael Bell, Fish and Wildlife Technician for TPWD. "In order to protect the existing marsh and shoreline, there has to be plants available because those plants root themselves in the sediment, and those roots help hold the sediment together and protect it against wind and wave action."

Planting fully grown plants harvested from the NRG EcoCenter's ponds will begin once TPWD's construction of the site is completed and the sediments have settled. "Whenever the construction is finished, they [TPWD] will give us the notification to go ahead and start planning a volunteer event to plant the site with volunteers," said Singer. "Hopefully the ideal time will be Fall 2014."

To learn more about CCA Texas' involvement in this and other projects, please visit