NRG Cedar Bayou EcoCenter Supports a Concerted Effort to Protect Remaining Marshland

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NRG Cedar Bayou EcoCenter Supports a Concerted Effort to Protect Remaining Marshland

Wednesday, August 17, 2016 - 9:25am

CONTENT: Blog

Contributed photo by Tom Harvey, Texas Parks and Wildlife: Teens and adults harvest marsh grass from ponds at the NRG EcoCenter on Cedar Bayou for transplant to a wetlands site along Dickinson Bayou.

Posted: Sunday, August 14, 2016 12:00 am | Updated: 2:56 pm, Tue Aug 16, 2016.

By Mark Fleming mark.fleming@baytownsun.com

In the last half of the 20th century, more than 200,000 acres of coastal marshland was lost from the Texas coast through development, erosion, subsidence and other causes. This coastal marshland is a valuable nursery for fish, shrimp, crabs and other sea life, plus a valuable tool for filtering sediment and pollution from the water, and even a protective barrier against the ravages of tidal flooding.

A concerted effort to protect remaining marshland, and even reclaim some of what has been lost, played out last week as 24 teens and about 10 adults gathered at the NRG EcoCenter near the power company’s generating plant on the east bank of Cedar Bayou across from Baytown. The group harvested smooth cord grass that will be transplanted to Dickinson Bayou for a restoration project.

The volunteers were from Sea Scout ships in Baytown, Alief and Bellaire, as well as the Houston Sail and Power Squadron.

Teens waded into the shallow ponds to pull the grass that is grown there as part of an effort NRG has hosted for about three decades to grow marsh grass for transplanting.

By re-using bayou water that has been used to cool the generating facility, NRG can provide warm water that allows for ideal growing conditions for all 12 months of the year, producing healthy plants that can then be moved where needed.

Texas Parks and Wildlife and Galveston Bay Foundation staff, as well as NRG representatives, were on hand to direct the effort and also provide the teens with information about the vital role tidal marshes play in the bay’s ecosystem.

Winston Denton, with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, said the Galveston Bay Foundation is a key partner in the state’s restoration work around the bay.

Tom Harvey, also with TPWD, said that marsh-grass harvesting and planting depends on community help. “There’s no way it can be done without a lot of volunteers,” he said. “They couldn’t get enough people to do it.

After the harvest, other volunteers will plant the cordgrass at a newly built restoration site along Dickinson Bayou.

This restoration project creates up to 10 acres of estuarine wetlands and protects and enhances 17.7 acres of existing wetlands.

The project design includes the creation of two wetland containment areas from sediment borrowed from the bayou and 3 living shorelines. 

At the event, sea scouts, community volunteers, and members of the Houston Sail and Power Squadron learned about conservation and the importance of wetlands They got their hands dirty by learning how to properly cull plants for relocation to the project.

Once over 3,000 plants were culled, the next step was to plant them via airboat at the restoration site by TPWD employees and project partners.

Once planted, the root systems of the grass stabilize the new sediment in the wetlands for the next, and final, phase of the project occurring in April during the Galveston Bay Foundation’s Marsh Mania event.

Wetlands are important habitats for fish and wildlife, and they provide important benefits for people. This project helps address that loss and aims to increase boating, fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities in the Dickinson Bayou as well as improve habitat for fish and wildlife resources and storm water filtration to make cleaner watersheds and estuaries.

In addition to ongoing projects, the Galveston Bay Foundation hosts two annual big events for volunteers to plant sea grass and participate in wetlands-related projects.

Called “Marsh Mania,” the events are hosted each September and April. For details, go to www.galvbay.org and select the “How We Protect the Bay” tab.

Keywords: Environment | NRG Cedar Bayou EcoCenter | NRG Energy | marshlands | sustainability

CONTENT: Blog