Houston Ship Channel Beneficial Use Project: Recent Successes and Future Plans
The Houston-Galveston Navigation Channels project is the largest collection of beneficial uses sites under one project scope in Galveston Bay and one of the largest in the nation. Through a solid partnership between the Port of Houston Authority and the Corps of Engineers Galveston District, the project has made tremendous strides and shown great success. This presentation will review a brief history of the project followed by a discussion of recent successes and accomplishments and concluding with the plans for the future. This success could not have been realized without the vision, guidance and on-going commitment of the Beneficial Uses Group (BUG), which is a unique group of state and federal agencies that assist with and consult on all aspects of the beneficial uses sites. The local representation on the BUG has been able to agree that habitat in the bay is the main goal and all individual agendas can be left behind to get the best for the bay. Also, the Atkinson Island Demonstration Marsh has had two noteworthy accomplishments. First, the National Marine Fisheries Service completed a study of the marsh in which they found that the marsh is proving a net benefit to the bay over its original status as open water habitat. The project team has also gone even further by creating more marsh edge in the Demo Marsh by excavating kayak and canoe trails in the site open for any bay user. At our bird island called Evia Island and on the levees at our marshes, we have seen tremendous growth in bird populations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been monitoring the populations and found that we met many of our goals for species and overall populations. Each of the Houston Ship Channel beneficial use sites (Atkinson Island Marshes, Mid Bay Marsh, and Bolivar Marsh) is slated for upcoming work so a brief overview of those plans will be presented. More specifically, information will be presented on the next phase of site development we are entering since two sites have reached their intertidal elevation and are ready to be breached for tidal exchange. We are employing two different strategies to breach the sites and gain tidal circulation, so both will be discussed. With a large and active ship channel, there will also be upcoming dredging which will be discussed since it will provide additional material at some of our sites through the bay.