NOAA Grant to Restore Galveston Bay Marsh a ‘Happy Surprise’ for State

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NOAA Grant to Restore Galveston Bay Marsh a ‘Happy Surprise’ for StateAUSTIN, Texas — When the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration publicly announced the last week of June that it was providing $5,148,369 to help restore critical wetlands in West Galveston Bay, the news took Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staffers who wrote the grant request by surprise.

“It’s a very happy surprise that we got this money. The project will return long-term benefits both to Galveston Bay and to the people of Galveston Island,” said Mike Ray, interim Coastal Fisheries Division director for TPWD.

The project, officially called “Recovery Act: Restoring Estuarine Habitats in West Galveston Bay,” is one of 50 nationwide funded through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009. NOAA received more than 800 proposals, with the Texas project among the 10 largest.

With another $647,597 from the Texas General Land Office, a $250,000 in-kind donation from NRG Texas Power LLC and $10,000 in staff time from TPWD, the more than $6 million project will restore 328 acres of intertidal marsh complex at two locations: Galveston Island State Park and Jumbile Cove.

“Coastal wetlands perform both chemical and physical functions, including temporarily retaining pollutants such as excess nutrients, toxic chemicals and disease-causing microorganisms,” said Cherie O’Brien, TPWD coastal ecologist and project leader. “They also provide critical habitat for juvenile finfish and shellfish and reduce damage from storms by acting as a buffer between shoreline and inland areas.”

The Galveston Island State Park shoreline component will reduce erosion at the state park, which is visited by approximately 500,000 people a year. It also will protect infrastructure within the City of Jamaica Beach by protecting its eastern shoreline from erosion.

The Jumbile Cove component of the project will protect private property directly behind it from erosion. O’Brien said property owners in the area have been supportive of previous restoration projects.

The concept for the project was developed in coordination with the Natural Resource Uses Subcommittee of the Galveston Bay Council.

“This is really a team effort between the state and federal governments, private partners such as NRG Texas Power and the Galveston Bay Council, which is charged with implementing the living resources elements of The Galveston Bay Plan,” said O’Brien.

The project will employ approximately 50 people at the Galveston Island State Park site and 52 people at the Jumbile Cove site. It is scheduled to be complete in October 2010.