An additional $1 million-plus has been awarded to Aransas County for the Cedar Bayou-Vinson Slough dredging project, from the Texas General Land Office.
Aransas County Judge C.H. “Burt” Mills was notified officially Thursday afternoon, Aug. 29.
The decades-long effort by fishermen and coastal experts to reopen a natural fish pass near Rockport is getting a $1 million boost from the Texas General Land Office.
Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson announced he will award $1,071,032 in funding derived from offshore drilling in federal waters toward the effort to reopen Cedar Bayou.
The effort is expected to cost more than $8.3 million. The $1 million-plus is from the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) funding and should bring Cedar Bayou backers to within $1.3 million of the final goal. The General Land Office has contributed nearly $1.4 million to the cause, cumulatively.
Patterson said, “Reopening this natural fish pass will restore the connection between the bay system and Gulf. It will be good for the whooping cranes and good for fishermen.”
Mills said they expect to bid the project by mid-October and begin work by April of 2014.
Cedar Bayou and nearby Vinson Slough connect the Aransas and Mesquite bay systems to the Gulf of Mexico. That area was closed in 1979 to protect the bays from a massive oil spill caused by the Mexican state oil monopoly Pemex. Since then, coastal experts, activists and fishermen have worked to restore the natural connection.
From 2006 to 2008, Save Cedar Bayou, Inc. and the General Land Office collectively invested more than $400,000.00 to study Cedar Bayou and develop a new strategy to reopen and maintain the pass.
The Feasibility Study was performed by Coast & Harbor Engineering.
The engineers reviewed existing data and previous studies, resurveyed the pass and surrounding areas, studied the tides and sediment flows along the coast, and developed a better understanding of the pass’s dynamics. Not surprisingly, the engineers discovered that to reopen and maintain the pass flow through the Cedar Bayou channel would have to be increased and hydraulic resistance reduced. Increasing the flow rate allows for higher water velocities at the Gulf mouth of the Bayou, which helps scour sediments from the channel mouth. Without regular scouring at the mouth, sediments build up and eventually lead to the closure of the Bayou.
The engineers recommended a return to the historic configuration by re-opening and reconnecting Cedar Bayou to Vinson Slough. They found that when connected to Cedar Bayou, Vinson Slough increases the total volume of flow through Cedar Bayou in addition to the flow gradient and the flow velocities at the mouth of Cedar Bayou. It was a solid analysis and efforts to obtain the permits for the project were launched.
In 2008, Aransas County assumed leadership of the project, and moved successfully towards obtaining the US Army Corps of Engineers permit in 2011.
In August 2011, the US Army Corps of Engineers issued the Section 404 Dredge & Fill permit to reopen Cedar Bayou to Aransas County based on the design developed by Coast & Harbor Engineering.
In 2012, the commissioners court approved funding to complete final engineering and surveys for initial restoration of the pass.
Coast & Harbor Engineering has been tasked with proceeding with final engineering and surveys for the project. When those plans are complete, the project could start to move sand as early as April 2013.
A website dedicated to the project has been launched to provide up-to-date information about the project as well as an opportunity for individuals to make contributions online at www.restorecedarbayou.org.
The partnership to reopen Cedar Bayou, led by Aransas County, includes the Coastal Conservation Association, the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s Harte Research Institute and the Texas General Land Office.
The effort also has support from the Texas General Land Office, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.