LA PORTE- The marsh restoration work done last year at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site is being recognized with the 2017 Environmental Excellence Award for Navigational Dredging by the Western Dredging Association (WEDA). WEDA is one of three members of the World Organization of Dredging Associations and covers projects done in the North, Central and South American territories.
Work done at San Jacinto helped to restore the appearance of the San Jacinto battleground to what it would have looked like in 1836 when Texas won its independence from Mexico. The dredging project focused on repairing portions of a 350-acre marsh to create new intertidal habitat instrumental to native marsh grass growth.
“Like so many other examples of great conservation work, this project involved several different contributing partners,” said Director of Texas State Parks Brent Leisure. “Not only does the project have wonderful ecological benefits, but the restored setting will help all visitors to have a greater appreciation for how this natural landscape contributed to the events in 1836. We are exceedingly pleased with how the project is turning out.”
This project was an unusual alignment of goals and organizations that ranged from improving a historical site and habitat to involving the work of industrial companies.
The project team that completed the work included the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD); dredging engineer of record, Atkins; Weeks Marine; Enterprise Products, LLC; the Texas Historical Commission and the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston District.
“Much of the Houston area has sunk due to past groundwater pumping, and portions of the San Jacinto Battleground were lost below the tide,” said TPWD natural resource specialist Andy Sipocz. “This project raised the ground enough to restore marsh to the Boggy Bayou portion of the battleground so it once again looks similar to what those who fought in the 1836 Battle for Texas Independence saw.”
The San Jacinto marsh landscape played a key role in Texas’ victory and bringing the area back to what it looked like offers visitors better understanding of the constraints faced by the opposing forces during the conflict and the melee afterward as Mexican forces attempted to flee from the Texian army.
The newly restored marsh also provides increased habitat for birds, small mammals and marine species such as shrimp larvae and crabs, reversing some of the effects of industrial development in the area. Restoration of the historically marshy terrain will also provide an additional buffer from storm surges such as those that affected the battleground during Hurricane Ike.
"We demonstrated how well environmental enhancements can be integrated into dredging projects, which WEDA strongly encourages and we actively promote," said Mark Stroik, project manager, Atkins. "The award is external validation that truly emphasizes the importance of what our team was able to accomplish."
The marsh restoration was made possible through the use of material being removed for a private industry project near Morgan’s Point, about 5 miles south of the battleground. Two levees were installed around the perimeter of the restoration area to contain dredge material from the Morgan’s Point project that was pumped to the site and dispersed over the area. The deposited material raised the marsh bottom about 10 to 20 inches and has allowed marsh grasses to expand their coverage over the area.