CCA Texas Starting Strong in 2019

John Blaha
CCA Texas Starting Strong in 2019
Scientific research plays an important role in establishing best practices for habitat restoration efforts. CCA Texas works closely with Harte Research Institute and others to help establish these best practices. Photo by Lisa Laskowski.

As this issue hits your mailboxes and newsstands, CCA Texas volunteers and staff will be in the middle of the biggest run this year of fundraising and membership banquets across the state.   The first third of 2019 has started off with a bang with several record-breaking events in both attendance and dollars generated for conservation efforts along the Texas gulf coast. CCA Texas leadership, volunteers and staff are equally excited about the successes that promise to follow as we proceed farther into the first half of the year’s fundraiser banquet schedule.

CCA Texas’s Advocacy team has been busy on many fronts. With the Texas legislature in session, the advocacy team have been frequent visitors to the halls of the capitol looking after the interest of Texas’s coastal resources. CCA Texas is working closely with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and other groups to put in place the necessary authority for TPW Commission to establish and manage an oyster mariculture plan for Texas. Texas is the only coastal state without an oyster mariculture plan and this effort will be a positive step for not only the resource but for business opportunities as well. The advocacy team has also been keeping a very close eye on the rapidly growing efforts to establish desalinization plants and port expansion efforts along the coast that will service the growing export needs of the oil industry. Current permit requests and plans are at times located in environmentally sensitive areas and the team is working to review each permit application on a case by case basis to ensure that the surrounding ecosystems are being evaluated and protected to the greatest level achievable.

CCA Texas supports the TPWD Commission for taking recent action to extend the five fish limit on spotted sea trout to include all Texas coastal waters. This action will help ensure a healthy fishery for the future as the human population along the Texas coast and the number of coastal anglers continues to grow exponentially.

HTFT Approves Funding for Three Projects Set to Begin

CCA Texas’s Habitat Today for Fish Tomorrow (HTFT) committee met recently to review project submissions from partners. This meeting resulted in the approval of funding for three projects, and the continued review on three others.

Sabine Lake Oyster Restoration

HTFT approved an additional $100,000 in funding to the Sabine Lake Oyster Restoration project.  This project was originally funded in the amount of $100,000 by HTFT and BCT in 2018. CCA Texas was awarded the Conservation Wrangler’s Award from Texan by Nature in 2018 for the efforts in this project. The effort is a partnership with TPWD and is working to restore up to 27 acres of oyster reef in the lower end of Sabine Lake. The original project was slated to restore a small area with CCA funds, however TPWD was award an additional $500,000 from Harvey Relief Funds to expand the work. With HTFT’s recent additional award and the Harvey Relief Funds, the Sabine Lake oyster restoration project is set to make a significant impact to the health of this reef and the Sabine Lake eco-system.

Dollar Bay Shoreline Protection and Wetland Restoration

HTFT approved $50,000 in funding to the Galveston Bay Foundation for the Dollar Bay Shoreline Protection and Wetland Restoration project.  This project will construct shoreline protection measures and wetland restoration techniques which will directly protect approximately 1,500 linear feet of shoreline from further erosion and habitat conversion within the Moses Lake and Dollar Bay area. The project also aims to restore up to 72 acres of intertidal wetland habitat within Dollar Bay. Wind-driven waves, particularly from the southeast during the summer months are impacting the shoreline and cause vegetation, soil loss and habitat conversion. The project will be constructed to reduce shoreline erosion and minimize wetland loss. Installing hard structure breakwaters will help reduce wave energy affecting the shoreline. The proposed project will not only serve to provide habitat for fish and shellfish, but will also help improve water quality in the affected area and protect the existing shoreline form wave energy. Estuarine marshes are considered high priority nursery habitat for fish and shellfish species including Gulf menhaden, sand seatrout, Atlantic croaker, spotted seatrout, and white shrimp. This project will benefit the public by increasing habitat and outdoor recreation opportunities such as fishing and ecotourism. CCA/BCT funds, will be utilized to assist construction and/or for assistance with planting the site with smooth cordgrass post construction via volunteer and/or contracted planting events.

Serpulid Reef Research

Serpulid reefs have historically received very little research in Texas. In 2018, HTFT funded Harte Research Institute (HRI) and Dr. Jennifer Pollack’s team to study these historic and important reef systems. The initial funding of $60,000 was used to perform an assessment of invertebrate reef communities including density, diversity, and biomass at several reef sites over time; link changes in reef communities to seasonal and/or water quality changes; and to conduct dietary analyses of fisheries species to assess the importance of reef communities as prey resources.  This early research has provided valuable data and shows the diversity and fragility of these reefs.

HTFT has funded another $75,000 for the continued research of this important eco-system.  The continued studies will compare the colonization of serpulid worms on restoration substrates with those on natural serpulid reef habitat; compare the colonization of restoration substrates by mobile and sessile invertebrate species (prey resources) with those found on natural serpulid reef habitat; and calculate and compare benefit-cost ratios for each substrate type to guide future restoration planning.  Serpulid reefs are an important part of the Baffin Bay and Laguna Madre eco-systems. CCA looks forward to seeing the results of HRI’s continued research.