YTD 2019: CCA Texas and BCT Commit $525,000 to Habitat

John Blaha
YTD 2019: CCA Texas and BCT Commit $525,000 to Habitat

CCA Texas’s habitat initiative, Habitat Today for Fish Tomorrow (HTFT), and Building Conservation Trust (BCT), CCA’s national habitat program, have committed $525,000 to five habitat projects year-to-date in 2019. The year-to-date commitment pushes CCA Texas and BCT’s commitment to habitat to over $7.25 million and forty-two projects since the inception of the HTFT initiative in December 2009. Projects approved thus far in 2019 include habitat research in Baffin Bay, shoreline protection and marsh restoration efforts in the Galveston Bay system, shoreline protection and marsh restoration efforts in Redfish Bay (Aransas Pass), and continued commitment to oyster restoration efforts in Sabine Lake.

Serpulid Reef Study in Baffin Bay – $75,000
CCA Texas and BCT funded an initial study of Baffin Bay’s serpulid reefs for $60,000 in 2018. This initial study focused on three areas: assessment of invertebrate reef communities including density, diversity, and biomass at several reef sites; linking changes in reef communities to seasonal and/or water quality changes; and conducting dietary analyses of fisheries species to assess the importance of reef communities as prey resources. Despite what was learned in the initial study and what is still being learned about the value of this unique habitat, a simple fact has not been addressed: Serpulid reefs in Baffin Bay have degraded compared to historic levels, with many areas already reduced to rubble. This newly-funded study will evaluate the efficacy of using alternative substrates for restoration of Serpulid reef habitats in Baffin Bay. Specifically, the study 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.

Harte Research Institute has successfully conducted numerous restoration projects in Texas targeting oysters as the primary reef builder, including studies using alternative substrates to restore habitat and reef-resident organisms. Identifying substrates that fulfill similar ecosystem functions to natural Serpulid worm reefs will provide conservation benefits to remaining reefs and is critical toward future restoration of this unique habitat. CCA Texas and BCT are excited to see the results of this groundbreaking study that will set in motion the future restoration of these rare, historic, and unique habitats found in the Baffin Bay system.

 Sabine Lake Oyster Restoration - $100,000
The Sabine Lake Oyster Restoration effort is an ongoing project that will restore oyster habitat within the remaining area of the 27.7 acres, where 22.3 acres where initially restored in 2015. The project will add to a network of small patch reefs that were strategically placed to supplement the nearby natural and historical Sabine Lake reefs.  CCA Texas and BCT originally funded $100,000 in 2018 for this effort, and has now approved an additional $100,000. These funds will be added to $500,000 that Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has secured from Hurricane Harvey relief funds, for a total of $700,000. This project is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.

Dollar Bay Shoreline Protection and Wetland Restoration - $50,000
CCA Texas and BCT have partnered with Galveston Bay Foundation on numerous projects in the past. These projects typically have several partners, and those included in the Dollar Bay Shoreline Protection and Wetland Restoration project are: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), Ducks Unlimited, and Texas General Land Office (TX GLO). This project proposes to implement shoreline protection measures that will protect up to 1,500 feet of shoreline and restore 72 acres of intertidal wetland habitat within Dollar Bay. CCA Texas and BCT funds will be used to help with construction or the planting of smooth cordgrass once construction is completed via volunteer and/or contractor efforts.

Galveston Bay Foundation Kemah Headquarters Habitat Protection and Restoration - $50,000
The new Galveston Bay Foundation Headquarters in Kemah will not only provide a home of the GBF staff, but the property boundary shoreline will provide an excellent opportunity for local community schools, and citizens to see firsthand a healthy shoreline eco-system. The long-term goal is to complete several demonstration habitat restoration projects on the property in addition to the living shorelines. This is to include, oyster reefs, freshwater wetlands, and prairie restoration. CCA Texas and BCT funds will be utilized for the construction of the breakwater, cleanup of debris on shoreline and associated with derelict bulkhead and pier structures, and support marsh vegetation planting efforts. CCA Texas and BCT strongly believe that public education is essential for the future health of our coastal resources. This project will provide many educational opportunities for the general public once completed.

Dagger and Ransom Island Shoreline Protection Project - $250,000
The Dagger and Ransom Island Shoreline Protection Project is a wide ranging project with the ultimate goal to eliminate or drastically reduce the rate of shoreline erosion and island migration. Three different types of shoreline protection (shoreline revetment, beneficial use, and offshore breakwaters) will be used at three priority areas. Once completed, the project will protect more than 5,000 acres marsh and wetlands, and create more than 40 acres.

The islands form a protective barrier between the Corpus Christi Ship Channel and approximately 14,000 acres of valuable seagrass beds and other sensitive habitats.  These islands once formed a nearly continuous, narrow landform separating Corpus Christi Bay and Redfish Bay. Island degradation and shoreline erosion have significantly decreased the size of the islands, as well as the functions and values they provide to this bay system. Protecting shallow aquatic habitat, submerged aquatic vegetation, intertidal habitat, oyster reefs, emergent marsh, mangrove marsh, tidal flats, benthic life and associated uplands are important for the health of the entire bay ecosystem. This project will create low and high marsh habitats and enhance seagrass beds critical for water quality in the bays and for sustaining a range of vertebrate and invertebrate species, many of economic and recreational importance. Construction on this project is expected to begin in 2019.

The Future
CCA Texas and BCT continue to explore funding opportunities up and down the entire Texas coast, and welcome opportunities to partner with like organizations, academia, and governmental 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]