NOAA and Partners Restore More Than 2,000 Acres of Wetlands in Texas

July 13, 2009

Restored intertidal marsh at the Lower Neches Water Management Area in Port Arthur, Texas.

Restored intertidal marsh at the Lower Neches Water Management Area in Port Arthur, Texas.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

More than 2,500 acres of coastal wetlands have been restored and enhanced in Port Arthur, Texas, as a result of a cooperative agreement between NOAA and its federal and state natural resource trustee partners.

NOAA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the Texas General Land Office worked with the Chevron Corporation to restore habitats that were injured by releases from refinery operations that took place decades ago.

“Coastal wetlands are extremely valuable habitats that provide numerous services for both humans and the environment,” said John H. Dunnigan, assistant administrator for NOAA’s National Ocean Service. “The wetlands restored through this cooperative project will help improve water quality and provide a buffer as tropical storms and hurricanes move onshore.”

The largest restoration occurred in the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area (WMA) near the Gulf of Mexico, where a project restored historic water flow conditions to approximately 1,300 acres of coastal wetlands. Nearly 90 acres of estuarine intertidal marsh and more than 30 acres of coastal wet prairie were also created.

At the J.D. Murphree WMA, approximately 1,500 acres of coastal emergent marsh plant communities have been restored to historical conditions through the installation of berms and other water control structures.

“These completed projects will not only provide habitat benefits to the fish and wildlife of the region, but will also enhance public use and outdoor recreation opportunities,” said WMA manager Jim Sutherlin.

A sign is placed to keep the public away from a wet prairie restoration site.

A sign is placed to keep the public away from a wet prairie restoration site.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

These habitats were restored to compensate the public for the natural resources that were harmed by historical releases of hazardous substances from the original Clark Chevron refinery in Port Arthur.

Products produced at the refinery site, which has been in operation since 1902, have included gasoline, kerosene, jet fuel and petrochemicals. Natural areas and waterways inside and adjacent to the refinery were negatively affected by operations at the refinery.

The natural resource trustees worked with Chevron to assess the injuries to the environment attributed to historical releases from the refinery. Once the amount of restoration needed was agreed upon, Chevron implemented the compensatory restoration projects with trustee oversight beginning in 2007.

As a principal trustee for the public’s coastal natural resources, NOAA’s Damage Assessment, Remediation and Restoration Program, restores habitats and communities that have been harmed by oil spills, hazardous substance releases and ship groundings. Through the program, NOAA works with other agencies, industry, and communities to protect and restore these coastal and marine resources.

Since its inception in 1992, the program has successfully protected natural resources at more than 500 waste sites. As of 2008, the program had settled almost 200 natural resource damage assessment cases, generating almost $450 million for restoration projects.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.