Monday, November 5, 2012

Bahia Grande Restoration Project

Laughing Gull
 The Bahia Grande is part of the Laguna Atascosa NWR in south Texas. Located between Brownsville and Port Isabel the Bahia Grande was once a 20,000 acre coastal wetland ecosystem. Up until the early 1900s this ecosystem supported a variety of wildlife including fish, crustaceans, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. In 1872 a railroad line was built to connect Brownsville and Port Isabel. This was the start of the death of the Bahia Grande. In 1936 a shipping channel to Brownsville was constructed which further restricted the tidal flow into the Bahia Grande. In 1951 State Highway 48 was built which completely isolated the Bahia Grande from the Laguna Madre. With no tidal flow the water began to evaporate turning this wonderful wetland ecosystem into a barren dust bowl. The Bahia Grande no longer supported much life and winds whipping across spread clay dust into the neighboring towns.
Reddish Egret
In 1999 the US fish and Wildlife Service acquired almost 22,000 acres of land in and around the Bahia Grande and began a project to restore the land back into the wetland habitat that it used to be. A series of channels have been dug to flood the area and provide it access to a consistent tidal flow. The main channel is 225 feet wide, 2400 feet long, and 9 feet deep. It stretches to the Brownsville Shipping Channel to provide tidal access to the Laguna Madre and Gulf waters. Several smaller channels have also been dug to assist in the restoration including a channel in the northern portion designed to catch freshwater run off to help with problems with too much salt. Even though they have been at it for almost 12 years this project is far from over. It usually takes much longer to fix nature then it does for man to destroy it. However progress has been made. Wildlife has begun to return to the area. As we drove through we saw brown and white pelican, shorebirds, oystercatchers, gulls (like the laughing gull in the first pic), osprey, herons, and egrets (like the reddish egret above). Since these birds were feeding hat means that there is also probably fish and other water creatures present also.


Findlay Wilde said...

Brilliant bird pictures, I haven't seen these before. From Findlay

mick said...

Great photos of the birds and a very interesting description of the restoration of that wetland area.

Fun60 said...

It is so easy for us to mess around and destroy ecosystems but not so easy to recreate them. At least this story seems to be well on theway to a happy ending.

ArtMuseDog and Carol said...

I am so glad to read this post and that the earth and wetlands are being restored and wildlife is returning ~ wonderful photography ~ (A Creative Harbor) ^_^

Liz said...

Wonderful shots! Have a fabulous week.

Liz @ MLC
Liz @ YACB