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Bragg's Cut connecting the Colorado River now open

By BY Marsha Butler, - Director of Communications Matagorda County Economic Development Corporation
June 14, 2012 at 1:14 a.m.

Bragg's Cut is a new channel that connects the Colorado River to the Matagorda Diversion Channel just north of the Riverbend Restaurant.

Bragg's Cut is a new channel that connects the Colorado River to the Matagorda Diversion Channel just north of the Riverbend Restaurant. The primary benefit of the cut is to improve navigational safety. Bragg's Cut gives recreational boats an alternative to traveling through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' (USACE) Colorado River Locks to access West Matagorda Bay. Not only does the cut allow for safe passage for recreational boats, it alleviates congestion for commercial tow boats and barges which use the Colorado River Locks.

Bragg's Cut is 1,800 feet long, 5 feet deep and 50 feet wide. The slopes and bottom of the cut are lined with an articulating concrete mat to prevent erosion. Underwater divers laid the concrete mat where the cut meets the Colorado River. The cut is designed to reduce currents through the locks, improve tidal circulation in Matagorda Bay, allow fresh water to flow through the lower river, and increase current velocity in the jetty channel to prevent shoaling and provide a better pathway for fish.

The construction of Bragg's Cut was funded with qualified outer continental shelf oil and gas revenues from the Coastal Impact Assistance Program, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, and the U.S. Department of Interior. The project's construction cost was $3,100,000, with preconstruction engineering fees of an additional $150,000. The Port of Bay City Authority obtained grant funds from the Texas General Land Office of $2,550,000 with the balance of $700,000 paid by the Port Authority.

Eight years passed from when discussions of Bragg's Cut started to when construction was completed. The project required a large collaboration between all the parties involved. Those parties included the Port Authority, USACE, the Corp's research center, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, NOAA-National Marine Fisheries, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas Water Development Board, LCRA, Matagorda County, Texas General Land Office and a few others. The Port sponsored a meeting in 2004 with the resource agencies to request their assistance in constructing a new cut. Next, modeling was performed to project impacts based on certain dimensions of the cut. The Corps provided engineering design and preliminary drawings based on these dimensions. The resource agencies did not want to lose more than 10 percent of the fresh water entering Matagorda Bay. The Port Authority applied for a permit, met with the agencies, had a wetlands delineation performed and then modified the plans to avoid certain wetland impacts. All of this took an extended period of time. The bid specs were completed in late 2010, a contract was awarded in the spring of 2011, construction began in September of 2011 and construction was completed in March of 2012. Bragg's Cut was filled with water and opened to boat traffic on March 1, 2012.

Bragg's Cut has already had a positive impact on tourism in Matagorda County. Since Bragg's Cut was flooded, there has been a 50% reduction in recreational boats traveling through the Colorado River Locks. Fishermen can now leave Matagorda Harbor and run to West Matagorda Bay without going through the locks or waiting on tow boats and barges. As boaters learn of Bragg's Cut, recreational boat traffic through the locks should continue to decline. It is estimated that 35,000 small craft and recreational boaters will benefit annually from Bragg's Cut. In addition, the increased circulation created by the cut should enhance fishing.

Elected members of the Port Authority Board who helped achieve this project are: Mike Griffith, George Harrison, Joey Sliva, Tommy Kountz, Taylor Steves and Ken Silverthorne.

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