GALVESTON, Texas—Second Nature is a column of feature stories, reports and photographs submitted by a panel of area nature experts. The panel is coordinated by The Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council in partnership with The Daily News, Friends of Galveston Island State Park, Galveston Bay Area Chapter of Master Naturalists and Houston Audubon. Frank Bowser, a longtime member of the Friends of Galveston Island State Park, provides the following article about marsh restoration in West Galveston Bay.
My wife is a "Bunco junkie." I won’t attempt to explain the Bunco game except that it serves as a convenient excuse for monthly parties, and it doesn’t get in the way of talking "shop" and deriding husbands’ quirks and other male idiosyncrasies.
Recently the ladies discussed the dredge sitting in West Galveston Bay near Jamaica Beach, wondering if it was cleaning canals in West End canal communities.
No, ladies, it’s really something less momentous. It’s an effort to revitalize parts of Galveston Bay, one of the world’s productive seafood hatcheries and nurseries. Two dredges now work near Jamaica Beach, one off Jubilee Cove to the west and one off Carancahua (Karankawa) Cove in Galveston Island State Park to the east.
These shallow coves, like all Galveston Bay bayous and coves, once were ringed with marshes and filled with marsh-grass-covered mounds, interspersed with tidal pools and rambling interconnecting waterways.
The shallow waters allowed sunlight to promote a sea grass bed covering cove bottoms and ringing shorelines. Brackish water, marsh grasses and sea grass provided excellent cover for hatching a broad variety of marine creatures and nourishment for growing, fledgling seafood until it was mature enough to migrate into the Gulf of Mexico.
So it was in the park and Carancahua Cove as late as 1984, but by 1997 the marshes disappeared as water covered everything and became too deep. Some say it was subsidence caused by wells pumping water from freshwater aquifers beneath, and others say it was erosion from water movement from the various bay activities. Whatever the cause, the marshes were inundated.
In the 1990s, a recovery project was started. A dredge borrowed sandy soil from the cove bottom and deposited it to form earth terraces that protruded above the water surface.
The terraces were laid out in a regular rectangular lattice work pattern filling the cove; openings were left in the terraces to allow water to form pools within the grid simulating a natural marsh; and volunteers waded out into the grid to plant marsh grasses on exposed terrace tops.
The result was instant marsh, or so it was thought. Over time it became apparent to the experts that, for whatever reason, things weren’t working out as well as anticipated, so they went back to the mental drawing board. The upshot is today’s dredging of sand from the bay and depositing it in Carancahua Cove to produce a more natural marsh.
The result should be a more natural marsh resembling the serene one between Oak and Butterowe bayous. After all the noise and commotion of dredging and filling, the birds and marine life should enjoy their new, more natural home.
If you’d like an up close view of the work progressing and have a boat, call me at 409-737-5567, and I’ll bring my kayak and lead you there. Go to the Friends of Galveston Island State Park Web site, www.fogisp.org, for a pictorial accounting as work on this project continues.
Frank Bowser is a member of the Friends of Galveston Island State Park. Direct inquiries about this article or photos to him at the phone number or Web site noted above. For information about the Second Nature series, e-mail the Nature Tourism Council at NatureTourismGalv(at)juno.com.
This story was brought to you thanks to khou.com’s partnership with The Galveston County Daily News.