EPA Water Official in Town Visiting Nueces Bay Causeway

The Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program is a model of cooperation, according to the acting assistant administrator for water for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Nancy Stoner is her name, and she was in Corpus Christi Monday to review a marsh restoration project along the Nueces Bay Causeway.

The water division of the EPA oversees bays and estuaries programs throughout the country, and Monday's visit was just an inspection of ongoing projects.

Stoner was at the sight of a 160-acre marsh restoration project along the causeway, where contractors and volunteers have been planting marsh grass. The grasses help keep the berms dredged and the bay bottom from eroding away.

Stoner said that because of tight budgets, the list of 28 bays and estuaries programs have been shrinking. She said the Coastal Bend is an exceptional example of cooperation.

"Taking every dollar and making it go really far by getting the universities involved, the counties involved, local partners involved," Stoner said. "It's just a great benefit to the community."

The project itself is in the final phase. A recent aerial photo of the area just north of the causeway shows the noodle-like berms that were redeposited from the bay bottom.

The senior project manager for the restoration effort said the marshland was eroded after the causeway was built, but since the project began, marine biologists are already seeing a change, with a return of several species of fish and birds.

"Just feeding on the little shrimp that are just foraging around in the marsh grass that we planted. A lot of birds are coming out here as well," said Rosario Martinez of Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries. "A lot of the terraces are still bare, so we're getting a lot of ground nesters coming out. Just helping out. We've seen a lot of fishermen come out here as well, fishing. We've see kayakers come out here."

The next step in the almost $5 million project will be placing rock along the outer berms to help control wave and wind erosion. The project is funded entirely from state and federal grants.

Martinez said that after the rock is spread, they will be revamping the boat launch at Indian Point on the north side of the causeway.


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