Sea Scouts Help Move Dickinson Bayou Wetland Restoration Project to Next Phase

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DICKINSON — The next phase of the Dickinson Bayou Wetland Restoration Project began this month at the NRG EcoCenter in Baytown. Sea scouts and other volunteers “culled” or pulled smooth cordgrass from the on-site nursery to be planted at the newly constructed wetland restoration project in Dickinson Bayou.

This restoration project is creating up to 10 acres of estuarine wetlands and protects and enhances 17.7 acres of existing wetland. The project design includes the creation of two wetland cell containment areas using borrowed sediment from the bayou and three living shorelines.

Wetlands and marshes are important habitats for fish and wildlife, and they provide important benefits for people, yet they remain a threatened resource. From the 1950s to the early 1990s Texas lost more than 200,000 acres of coastal wetlands. This project helps address that loss and aims to increase boating, fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities as well as improve storm water filtration for a cleaner watershed and estuary in the Dickinson Bayou.

“Without this project, continued erosion and landward migration of the shoreline would result in an additional 17-acre wetland loss over the next 25 years,” said Jan Culbertson, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) coastal fisheries biologist. “The plants culled at the Sea Scout event will help us stabilize the existing wetlands, and grow new wetlands to prevent future losses from happening.”

TPWD and project partners like the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA), USDA/Soil Conservation Service, Galveston Bay Foundation, and U.S. Fishing Wildlife Service began the project in 2014 with the initial harvest of smooth cordgrass seed from existing plants in Dickinson Bayou. Seeds were planted in the NRG EcoCenter nursery ponds and grown until they were ready for culling and planting at the restoration project site.

This month’s culling event was sponsored by TPWD, NRG, and Galveston Bay Foundation with volunteer support from Baytown area sea scouts and the Houston Sail and Power Squadron.

At the event, sea scouts, community volunteers, and members of the Houston Sail and Power Squadron learned about conservation and the importance of wetlands. Volunteers got their hands dirty by learning how to properly cull plants for relocation to the restoration site. The 3,060 plants culled by the volunteers were planted via airboat at the restoration site by TPWD employees and project partners. As they grow, the root systems of the planted grasses stabilize the new sediment in the marsh cells for the next, and final, phase of the project.

The next phase of the project is the Galveston Bay Foundation’s Marsh Mania event on Earth Day April 22, 2017. Marsh Mania is a nationally-recognized, community-based wetlands restoration and education event held every year in the Galveston Bay area. The Dickinson Bayou project has been chosen for the 2017 event. Hundreds of volunteers are expected to help plant the over 40,000 plants needed to finish the restoration site.

Anyone can find more information or volunteer for the 2017 event on the Marsh Mania web page.

This project was partially funded by a Texas Coastal Management Program Grant approved by the Texas Land Commissioner pursuant to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Award No. NA13NOS4190113. Other partners include the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Galveston Bay National Estuary Program, Galveston Bay Foundation NRG Energy Eco-Center, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (National Coastal Wetland Conservation Grant Program), Texas Coastal Program, Coastal Conservation Association, Texas General Land Office (Coastal Erosion Planning Response Act), Texas General Land Office — Coastal Management Program, Texas Sea Grant, Texas A&M University Agrilife Extension Service, City of Texas City, City of Dickinson and the Dickinson Bayou Watershed Partnership.