Commission Agenda Item No. 12
Presenter: Mike Rezsutek
Nathan Kuhn

Salt Bayou Watershed Restoration Plan
August 21, 2014

I.   Executive Summary:  Staff will provide an overview of the Salt Bayou Watershed Restoration Plan (Plan), including impacts from man-made changes to the landscape, how these changes have affected natural resources and their use by the public, and the major actions identified as necessary to restore and enhance coastal marshes within the watershed by the multi-agency working group that developed the Plan.

This item will explain efforts to restore and enhance 139,000 acres of wetland habitat with importance for continental populations of waterfowl, Gulf fisheries, commercial and recreational users of these resources, as well as providing storm surge protection to the communities and industries of Jefferson County.

II.   Discussion:  Beginning with the dredging of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW), the Salt Bayou Watershed has degraded through time because of landscape-scale changes in hydrology.  These changes include marsh loss from a lack of freshwater inflows and increased salinity to coastal marshes south of the GIWW, and ponding of water in marshes north of the GIWW leading to waterlogging and reduction in habitat quality.  In May 2013, the Salt Bayou Work Group, comprised of representatives from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Wildlife and Coastal Fisheries divisions, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Jefferson County Engineering Department, Jefferson County Drainage District 6, Texas General Land Office, Texas Water Development Board, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Ducks Unlimited, Inc. published a restoration plan to address these changes in hydrology. The plan specifies 3 goals with 9 objectives and 4 specific recommendations to restore hydrologic patterns to the maximum practical extent to pre-GIWW conditions and support a healthy, dynamic coastal marsh ecosystem.  Two of the Plan’s recommendations are already underway.  The Keith Lake Fish Pass project is funded and awaiting a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has begun rebuilding the beach ridge system from their border with Sea Rim State Park to High Island. The Plan will be reviewed and updated periodically to address changes in conditions within the watershed.