East Bay and GIWW Shoreline Protection and Restoration Project
Shoreline Protection Successes Along Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge’s Shoreline
In 2006, the Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF) joined with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a long list of partners and supporters to undertake a fairly ambitious task—protecting the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge’s (NWR) bay shorelines from continued erosion.
Shoreline erosion of up to 10 feet per year in some places had resulted in extreme losses of valuable land and habitat. Gently sloping shorelines with consistent fringes of valuable intertidal marsh habitat was replaced by steep bluffs and very patchy remnants of marsh. Had this erosion trend been allowed to continue, saltwater would have eventually intruded upon the more landward brackish and freshwater wetlands and coastal prairies, significantly changing the hydrological regime and altering the ecological diversity of the area.
Thanks to the efforts of many who recognized the need to protect this valuable resource, this trend of erosion and habitat loss has been stopped along Anahuac NWR’s East Bay and Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) shorelines. The first phase of work in 2006-2007 consisted of construction of 16,802 feet of rock breakwaters and 200 feet of reef dome breakwaters. The second phase of work in 2009-2010 built upon previous successes and resulted in the construction of another 17,771 feet of rock breakwaters plus 1,380 feet of ReefBLK breakwaters. The third phase was completed in September 2011, and consisted of 20,617 feet of rock breakwater along Anahuac NWR’s GIWW shoreline. Combined, these three efforts from 2006 to 2011 have in effect protected 56,770 feet of Refuge shoreline—equivalent to 10.75 miles!
In addition to the extensive length of shoreline and thousands of acres protected, over 200 volunteers planted plugs of smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) to create 5.5 acres of intertidal marsh. Marsh continues to rapidly accrete behind the breakwater structures, and in some areas has actually extended beyond them.
As a result of the project benefits and the innovation that went into accomplishing them, the East Bay Wetland and Water Quality Protection Project was selected receive the EPA Gulf of Mexico Program’s 1st Place Gulf Guardian Award in the Partnership Category in 2007 and the Department of the Interior’s Cooperative Conservation Award in 2008. As reflected through the terms “Partnership” and “Cooperative” associated with these two awards, this project would not have been possible or nearly as successful without a team of strong, skilled partners contributing either technical or advisory expertise, material resources, or funding to the project. East Bay Wetland Protection project partners included the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Texas Coastal Program, NOAA Restoration Center, Restore America’s Estuaries, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Shell Oil Company, TCEQ Galveston Bay Estuary Program, EPA Gulf of Mexico Program, NOAA Fisheries, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, NRG, Texas General Land Office, and GBF. The GIWW portion of this project was funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, Coastal Impact Assistance Program.