After months of deliberation, the Matagorda Bay Mitigation Trust announced Friday that nine coastal environmental projects from six entities were selected to receive a total of $3.2 million in funding from the trust.
The trust’s request for proposals yielded 39 proposals from 16 entities, totaling $14.5 million, according to a news release from Trustee Steven Raabe.
“We were so fortunate to receive some great proposals and it was difficult for the selection committee to make their recommendation because of the limitation of available funds,” he said. “But we are extremely pleased with the quality, scope and cost effectiveness of the proposals selected as a significant step to research, restore and improve the Matagorda and San Antonio bays area environment.”
The Matagorda Mitigation Trust was established as part of a federal Clean Water Act settlement in San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper and S. Diane Wilson, vs. Formosa Plastics Corp., Texas and Formosa Plastics Corp., U.S.A.
Formosa is paying $50 million into the trust over a five-year period for specific environmental mitigation projects, as agreed upon in the settlement. Of that $50 million, $11.25 million will be paid to the trust over a five-year period to redistribute to applicable environmental restoration, research and protection projects.
The nine projects that were selected by an awards committee will be funded with a portion of the $3.7 million that was paid into the trust for 2020.
The Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program will receive $500,000 for protection and restoration of the Blackjack Peninsula and $498,000 for protection and restoration of Matagorda Island West Marsh, both located at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.
Erosion along the Blackjack Peninsula shoreline has resulted in loss of both wetland and upland habitats that was further exacerbated by Hurricane Harvey. Funds from the trust will be used to complete a project that started in 2019, when the program received funds to install a shoreline protection structure that will protect about 4 miles from ongoing erosion and storm events.
Hurricane Harvey also caused extensive damage to the levees and water control infrastructure on the Matagorda Island West March. Similarly to the Blackjack Peninsula project, trust funds will be used to complete a 2019 project to to repair the levees and water control structures that were more severely damaged than initially estimated.
The Matagorda Bay Foundation will received $500,000 for living shoreline restoration of Schicke Point.
Located at the mouth of Carancahua Bay, the point supports a large oyster reef and marsh complex and has been rapidly eroding. The living shoreline is being constructed to protect 0.6 of a mile of Matagorda Bay’s north shore between Carancahua and Turtle bays from erosion.
The research projects selected by the trust’s awards committee focus on plastic contaminants, which are an important issue for the bay area, Raabe said.
Researchers at Texas A&M-Galveston were awarded $499,953 for researching the fate and toxicity of microplastics and persistent pollution in the shellfish and fish of Matagorda Bay.
Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin and UT Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas will receive $499,805 for study of microplastic concentration in sediments and waters of Matagorda and San Antonio Bays that will be used for initial assessment and mitigation plans.
Researchers with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi were awarded funding for two projects: $159,055 to study long-term trends in the Lavaca-Colorado and Guadalupe estuaries and $499,917 for risk assessment and interaction between mercury and plastic in the commercial and recreational fisheries of the Lavaca, Matagorda and San Antonio bays.
The Calhoun County AgriLife Extension Service was awarded $51,499.72 to purchase supplies for coastal ecology educational programs that will be delivered to the Calhoun County school district, 4-H, YMCA and commercial fisherman and fishing guides.
The programs will provide hands-on learning that highlights the fish and wildlife habitats in Lavaca, Matagorda and San Antonio bays as well as the Gulf beach.
Improving public access
In addition to funding for habitat restoration, the Matagorda Bay Foundation was also awarded $22,000 to acquire a long-term conservation lease with Matagorda County for about 47 acres of accreted beach habitat. The funds will also be used to determine the boundaries and value of a proposed donation of about 45 acres of wetlands adjacent to Turtle Creek near Palacios.