USACE Galveston District awards small business contract for oyster reef restoration project

Published Sept. 27, 2013

GALVESTON, Texas (Sept. 27, 2013) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District awarded a contract in the amount of $547,000 to RLB Contracting, a woman-owned small business, for an oyster restoration project located within the northernmost extent of the Half Moon Reef in Matagorda Bay, Texas.

The project, conducted in partnership with The Nature Conservancy of Texas, will consist of constructing six rows of oyster reef in support of the USACE Galveston District’s Estuary Program. 

“This is the first ecosystem restoration project of its kind in the district,” said Byron Williams, a project manager with the USACE Galveston District. “While environmental impacts and mitigation are considered in every project managed by the Corps, our district is able to carry out aquatic restoration and protection projects if environmental quality is improved, it is in the public’s interest and is cost effective for taxpayers.”

According to Williams, oysters are filter-feeding organisms that anchor the coastal marine food chain, offer protection from storm surges and help keep coastal waters free of sediment and algae.

“Hurricane Ike destroyed about 8,000 acres of oyster reefs and the quality of the existing oyster reefs has been depleted by overfishing, shell dredging, hydrologic changes and other factors,” said Williams. “This approximate 12-acre project is the first segment of a larger 60-acre reef restoration project spearheaded by the Conservancy. The total cost of the broader project is estimated around $5 million, with the remaining funding provided by the Texas General Land Office.”

Mark Dumesnil, associate director of coastal restoration for The Nature Conservancy in Texas, says the reef was once 400 acres in aerial extent and considered one of the most commercially productive oyster reefs on the mid-Texas coast but today the reef is mostly devoid of live oysters from a combination of factors including changes in hydrology, overfishing and shell dredging.

“Oyster reefs are associated with feeding stations for large predatory fish, which is key for the fishing tourism industry,” said Williams. “This restoration may enhance socio-economic benefits provided by fishing tourism in this area.”

According to Dumesnil, oysters filter up to five liters – or about two gallons – per hour. 

“Oysters are the natural purification system of the Gulf, constantly pulling out pollution, sediment and harmful algal blooms from Gulf waters. The presence of healthy oyster reefs also boost aquatic life and act as storm barriers for coastal communities,” said Dumesnil.

Williams expects the project to be monitored for a maximum of five years or when the reef is determined to be self-sustainable; however, he added that sustainability could be achieved in as early as 12 months following project completion.

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Release no. 13-072