Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program’ Nueces Bay Marsh Restoration Project

The Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program (CBBEP) is beginning another round of enhancements at the 160-acre site near the Nueces Bay Causeway between Corpus Christi and Portland. This latest effort, funded by NOAA and the Texas General Land Office’s Coastal Management Program, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and the Environmental Protection Agency, will incorporate volunteer marsh plantings and public access improvements, including an observation deck and interpretive signage.

The Nueces Bay Marsh was once a thriving bay ecosystem and essential habitat for juvenile fish, shrimp and crabs, as well as feeding grounds for bigger fish and birds. However, in the late 1940s, causeway construction and related dredging resulted in the loss of about 180 acres of marsh. Since then, studies show an additional 160 marsh acres have been lost due to erosion and subsidence. To restore the loss of marsh, CBBEP began planning in 2005, and since then there have been multiple funding partners that have contributed to this restoration effort.

To date three major construction phases of the marsh have been completed. The first phase created terraces and an outer berm. The second phase created additional marsh complex in the middle, and the third phase consisted of the outermost berm, placed with a rock revetment, to protect the project site and infrastructure.

Constructing the marsh involved dredging bay sediments to form mounds, or terraces, at elevations suitable to grow smooth cordgrass, Spartina alterniflora. Smooth cordgrass marshes are typically inundated at high tide and remain partially wet at low tide. This next and final phase of the project will put the finishing touches on previous efforts, as well as build foundations in stewardship by inviting the public to get involved with volunteer plantings.

Funding Source Funding Amount Coastal Conservation Association $24,000 GLO Coastal Impact Assistance Program $2,339,000 GLO Coastal Management Program $1,066,798 GLO Coastal Erosion Planning Response Act $475,000 Environmental Protection Agency $97,097 Hollomon Price Foundation $20,000 Texas Commission on Environmental Quality $799,925 USFWS Coastal Program $50,000 USFWS American Recovery and Reinvestment Act $455,000 Total $5,326,820 Nueces Bay Marsh Restoration.

An observation deck and educational signs will complete the project by providing public access and information about the marsh restoration project and restoring essential fish habitat, marsh communities, and the benefits to the surrounding infrastructure from the functions and values the marsh provides. Once this phase is complete, the CBBEP will monitor the marsh ecosystem and Nueces Bay for the continued enjoyment of both people and wildlife.

Tom Behrens:
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