News: USACE to complete $1.3 million Half Moon Reef project
Story by Sandra Arnold
MATAGORDA, Texas – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District is scheduled to complete construction of the $1.3 million Half Moon Reef project April 11 to restore 12 acres of sub-tidal reef and habitat located within the northernmost extent of the Half Moon Reef in Matagorda Bay, Texas – one of the largest restoration projects around the country.
The project is the second segment of a larger 60-acre reef restoration project led by The Nature Conservancy to restore one of the largest oyster reefs in the Gulf of Mexico. The project funds will continue to be used to monitor and survey the reef’s progression.
"This is the first estuary habitat restoration project of this kind in the Galveston District,” said Byron Williams, a project manager with the USACE Galveston District. "We used more than 3,900 cubic yards of recycled concrete consisting of various sizes of boulders and placed them in a specific pattern to encourage the reef to grow vertically and to try to replicate a real reef.”
The Galveston District oversees the 367-mile Texas coastline and often partners with agencies such as The Nature Conservancy in Texas and the GLO on construction projects to implement components that strike a balance between ecosystem preservation while serving the industries that fuel commerce.
According to Mark Dumesnil, associate director of coastal restoration for The Nature Conservancy in Texas, experts anticipate that Half Moon Reef will provide ecosystem benefits within months of completion of the new habitat for oysters and other key marine life. Additional expectations include the reefs serving as a natural barrier to protect the shoreline from storms, decreasing erosion and helping to protect coastal communities from tropical storms.
"When you have healthy oyster reefs, you have excellent habitat for small fish and other reef-dependent species, reliable food for bigger fish and water filtration,” said Dumesnil. “All of that leads to healthier commercial and recreational fisheries, a first line of defense against storms and hurricanes, cleaner water and a more resilient ecosystem overall."
In addition to its partnership with The Nature Conservancy in Texas, the district worked with the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Coast Guard, Natural Resource Conservation Service and state entities including the Office of the Governor, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas General Land Office, Texas Railroad Commission, Texas State Historical Preservation Office, Texas Soil and Water Conservation Board and the Galveston Bay National Estuaries Program.
Williams says the project is a great example of partnering among agencies to achieve a common goal and added that the site will be monitored for a minimum of five years to determine when the reef becomes self-sustainable.
“We believe that sustainability may be achieved as early as 12 months,” said Williams. “We’d like to see the underwater oyster colony flourish and once again become a perfect habitat for one of the most productive fisheries for blue crabs, oysters and shrimp in Texas.”
According to Williams, the Department of the Army joined four other agencies (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Department of Agriculture) in 2000 to form the Estuary Habitat Restoration Council. Duties include updating the national strategy, providing advice on the development of the monitoring standards and soliciting, reviewing and evaluating project proposals in order to submit a list of recommended projects to the Secretary of the Army.
As the nation’s environmental engineer, the Corps manages the federal environmental mission of restoring degraded ecosystems to a more natural condition through large-scale estuary habitat restoration projects. The USACE Galveston District plays a key role in partnering with agencies to maintain the environmental health of our coastal wetlands to ensuring the continued success of many of our nation’s vital industries.
To learn more about environmental efforts in the USACE Galveston District, visit http://www.swg.usace.army.mil/BusinessWithUs/PlanningEnvironmentalBranch/EnvironmentalSection.aspx . For more news and information, visit www.swg.usace.army.mil. Find us on Facebook, www.facebook.com/GalvestonDistrict or follow us on Twitter, www.twitter.com/USACEgalveston.