Dredging to improve Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and Whooping Crane Habitat

by Friends of the Wild Whoopers Admin

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project designed to maintain the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) along the Texas coast also has features planned to help Whooping Cranes according to Friends of the Wild Whoopers (FOTWW). Chester McConnell, president of FOTWW advised that the group plans to closely monitor the project to evaluate its effects. “We have been involved with dredging projects where the dredge material has been used to benefit wetland wildlife species and we know this can be done” according to McConnell.

Whooping Cranes along the Gulf Intracostal Waterway

Whooping Cranes along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway adjacent to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plays a significant role in keeping America’s waterways open and commerce flowing,” said Seth Jones, an operations manager with the USACE Galveston District’s Navigation Branch. “The Texas portion of the GIWW alone carries 73 million tons of cargo a year valued at $40 billion.”The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District awarded a maintenance dredging contract in the amount of $2,967,500 to Orion Marine Construction Inc., to dredge the GIWW across Aransas Bay in Aransas and Calhoun counties, Texas.  The contractor will use a pipeline dredge to remove approximately 1,323,000 cubic yards of material from the GIWW across Aransas Bay and the Lydia Ann Channel.

Work is expected to begin in mid-June 2015 with an estimated completion date of October 2015. According to Jones, a portion of the dredged material will be used beneficially as part of ongoing marsh creation within the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

Dawn Gardiner, Assistant Field Supervisor of the Corpus Christi Office of Texas Coastal Ecological Services, USFWS believes that creating more marsh with the dredge material will be a good use. Gardiner told Friends of the Wild Whoopers that “the dredge material would be spread over existing marsh in a manner to allow continued growth of wetland vegetation. The marsh is intended to benefit Whooping Cranes as well as other wildlife species.”

Barges on Gulf Intracoastal Waterway

Barges on Gulf Intracoastal Waterway

Gardiner further explained that “…the current marsh is eroding away and is anticipated to continue to do so with sea level rise and increasing barge traffic. Beneficially using dredge material can slow losses.”

“Approximately 208,000 cubic yards of material will be placed at Beneficial Use Site J, which will eventually become a 56-acre marsh site,” said Jones. “The goal is to increase the amount of marsh habitat in the refuge which is especially important in the Aransas Bay area considering the endangered Whooping Crane travels from Canada each year to winter there.”

The Corps dredges this particular area of the GIWW between June and October as to not disturb the endangered Whooping Crane, according to Jones.

McConnell rationalized that the wild population of Whooping Cranes continues to increase while more Whooper habitat is being destroyed or degraded along the Texas coast. So, projects such as dredging the GIWW can serve more than one purpose. Friends of the Wild Whoopers is hopeful that the USACE dredging project will increase habitat as planned.

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friendsofthewildwhoopers.org

***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****
Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.

 

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Mustang Island State Park Grows by 690 Acres

News Release
Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov

May 21, 2015

Mustang Island State Park Grows by 690 Acres, Benefits from 100-Acre Adjacent Protected Land

Land Acquisition, Conservation Easement Result from Pollution Settlement

AUSTIN — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission has approved a 690-acre, (279 hectares) land acquisition that increases the size of Mustang Island State Park near Corpus Christi to 4,783 acres, (1,935 hectares). In addition, the commission agreed to accept a 100-acre conservation easement donation adjacent to the park.

Both land actions result from the settlement of a pollution mitigation case brought in 2005 against Asarco and Encycle, which operated smelting and waste management facilities that discharged pollutants into upper Corpus Christi Bay for more than 60 years. The Texas Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) trustees awarded a portion of the settlement funds to buy the two tracts. Besides TPWD, the other trustees are the Texas General Land Office and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The TPW Commission authorized the purchase of the 690-acre tract in August 2014 and the transaction was finalized in October.

The 100-acre tract adjacent to Mustang Island State Park is being purchased by the Nature Conservancy-Texas Chapter and the terms of the acquisition require that a conservation easement be held by TPWD to assure the land is managed in perpetuity for conservation of coastal habitats and natural resources. With this acquisition, the state park is now connected to the 300-acre Francine Cohn Preserve, owned and managed by the conservancy. Both parties have long wanted to connect the park and the preserve with a conservation corridor.

Mustang Island State Park opened to the public in 1979. The park straddles Mustang Island, with more than five miles of beach fronting on the Gulf of Mexico, and the back side of the park extending to the shores of Corpus Christi Bay. Mustang Island has developed rapidly in recent years, and few opportunities remain to enlarge the popular state park for visitors and wildlife. The largest opportunity was the 690-acre property known as the Facey Tract on the north end of the park running from Highway 361 to Corpus Christi Bay, with a half mile of boundary in common with the park. The coastal conservation community worked for more than a decade seeking the means to acquire this tract for addition to the state park.

Information about Mustang Island State Park can be found online at http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/mustang-island .

 

friendsofthewildwhoopers.org logo

friendsofthewildwhoopers.org

***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****
Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.