The Galveston Bay Foundation last week received $2.3 million from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to complete a major marsh restoration project in the Dollar Bay-Moses Lake complex on Galveston Bay near Texas City.

The fish and wildlife foundation administers the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, money paid by BP in penalties after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Those funds have benefited efforts by the Galveston Bay Foundation and other Texas Gulf coast environmental nonprofits in their efforts to preserve and restore bay shorelines and marsh complexes over the past several years.

The $2.3 million is the third successive grant from fish and wildlife since 2014, according to the foundation. The three grants together total more than $5.7 million aimed at restoring marsh shorelines and building marsh grass terraces along the shore of Lake Moses and Dollar Bay.

This most recent grant will allow restoration of 72 acres of intertidal marsh complex that provide habitat for dozens of species of birds, fish, shrimp and crabs.

Suitable habitat for oyster beds also will be a result of the project, Bob Stokes, president of the Galveston Bay Foundation, said.

“We use a common technique that’s been done across Galveston Bay for 20 years and has proven successful,” Stokes said. “We basically pile up dredge brought over from somewhere nearby and pile it up where marsh has eroded.”

Rock breakwaters are constructed offshore and the area in between them and the land is planted with marsh grass by volunteers, creating an area where erosion can be halted and sediment fallout eventually builds back new land.

“Marsh terraces are these little islands we create,” Stokes said. “The idea is you create a lot of edge for the marsh because edge is more biologically productive.”

The first phase of the Moses Lake-Dollar Bay project resulted in design and engineering plans for the restoration. The second phase restored 500 acres of degraded wetlands and protected 6,800 linear feet of shoreline from erosion in the area. The third phase, made possible by the most recent grant, will continue that work.

Partners in the project include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Texas General Land Office, Shell Oil Co., the Nature Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited.

The three fish and wildlife grants contribute to the bay foundation’s larger landscape conservation efforts in Galveston Bay, which has lost more than 35,000 acres of intertidal wetlands since the 1950s. Subsidence of the land caused by groundwater extraction was the major reason for lost shorelines around Texas City until the 1970s, according to hydrology experts in the area.

The foundation’s marsh restoration and preservation along Galveston Bay has been identified as a Tier 1 project recommended by the Texas General Land Office in their 2019 Texas Coast Resiliency Master Plan, published in March.

The plan identified natural and manmade threats to the coastal region and recommended 123 Tier 1 projects that together will cost $5.4 billion.

Among the threats identified were altered, degraded or lost habitat; Gulf beach erosion and dune degradation; bay shoreline erosion; existing and future coastal storm surge damage; coastal flood damage; effect on water quality and quantity; effect on coastal resources; and abandoned or derelict vessels, structures and debris.

Kathryn Eastburn: 409-683-5257; kathryn.eastburn@galvnews.com.

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