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BP Oil Spill Funds targeted for Orange County wetland restoration

From staff reports

The federal and five state “Gulf State Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council” established to award over $1 billion in competitively awarded grants to projects in the Gulf States has announced its first round of priority funding priorities. The Nelda Stark Unit of the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area in Orange County and the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area in Jefferson County are the focus of two planning grants totaling $960,000. A third wetland area in Galveston County will share in the planning and design funds that will lead to future grants to rebuild wetlands.

Improving coastal ecosystem resiliency and water quality reaching the Gulf of Mexico from the Sabine Neches watershed are key goals of the RESTORE Council in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“The RESTORE Council clearly recognizes the marsh restoration and preservation needs in Orange County and the Sabine Watershed,” Port Director and CEO of Orange County Navigation and Port District Gene J. Bouillion said. “We are looking forward to much more funding in this direction as a means to benefit overall coastal resiliency.”

The Port of Orange has submitted grant requests for marsh restoration to Restore the Texas Coast totaling $17 million as an initial effort for comprehensive coastal restoration.

“It is a good sign that water quality is a key focus area for Gulf ecosystem restoration, as it should be, and the Sabine Neches Watershed is Texas’ number one source for fresh water into the Gulf totaling over half of the whole state’s inflow to the Gulf in an average year,” Orange Mayor Jimmy Sims said. “The recent Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approval of the Implementation Plan to resolve water quality problems in the Adams and Cow Bayous goes hand in hand with the RESTORE Council’s initial step. The Council’s funding of habitat mapping Gulf-wide is going to highlight the ecologically-rich Chenier Plain region that Orange County is part of and the Sabine is the largest river within the Chenier Plain.”

The City of Orange is part of an interlocal group along with the Sabine River Authority, City of Vidor, City of Pinehurst, Bridge City and local water control and improvement districts that have submitted a $50 million grant request to Restore the Texas Coast to fund a new Regional Waste Water Treatment Facility that would clean the Adams and Cow Bayous.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Project Leader for the Upper Coast Wetlands Ecosystem Project Michael Rezsutek helped design the grant requests that are being approved for funding.

The project would involve coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and private dredging operations, where necessary, to identify potential source materials and timelines for placement of dredge materials.

The design and permitting activity will be completed within 12-24 months.