The largest tidal wetland restoration project in the state of Texas is getting closer to completion. The construction of a permanent channel to completely fill the 10,000-acre potential estuary known as Bahia Grande, northeast of the Brownsville Ship Channel, should begin in approximately a year and a half. John Wallace, Deputy Project Leader South Texas Refuge Complex, "Hopefully, they will start construction between now and about 18 months from now, and to me that would then be the complete restoration of the Bahia Grande, restoring the tidal flow." The construction of the ship channel connecting the Gulf of Mexico to the Port of Brownsville in the early 1930's cut off tidal flow to Bahia Grande drying a productive estuary and creating an immense dust bowl. After many years of cooperative effort with various groups, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service purchased the Bahia Grande property in 1998 and in 2005 dug a pilot channel partially filling the wetland.
This abated the dust problem, but the channel needs to be widened to provide for adequate tidal flow, which will keep the estuary from becoming hyper saline. But even with just the pilot channel, Bahia Grande, is recovering dramatically.
Tony Reisinger, Cameron County Marine Extension Agent, "It's rebounded spectacularly. We see a lot of fish. In fact, the University of Texas at Brownsville Department of Biological Sciences just found some sea grass right near the mouth of where the water comes into the Bahia Grande. So far we had not found any, and they found it so that is great news." And once the permanent channel is dug the plan is to open Bahia Grande to the public. Wallace, "We are intending to open it up for public use. We are looking at canoe and kayak tours out there|wade fishing on the Bahia Grande." With your Nature Report I'm Richard Moore