During a presentation made Wednesday, Jan. 22, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission approved the purchase of 1,100 acres on the Matagorda Pennisula as part of a nature preservation effort.
The purchase of the acres is utilizing money from a settlement tied to the offshore Deepwater Horizon rig disaster that left 11 dead and dumped as much as 3.2 million barrels of crude into the gulf.
As part of the agreement with Gulf Coast states, BP agreed in 2015 to a $18.7 billion settlement with Texas being awarded more than $80 million. A portion of this money is being used for the TP&W Department’s purchases in Matagorda County.
Other projects being planned by TPWD include $20.6 million to restore ro0keries in Galveston Bay and East Matagorda Bay.
This announcement comes after months of debate over usages for the Deepwater Horizon settlement. Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald spoke out for funding to build a breakwater at Sargent Beach along with a beach nourishment project. McDonald said that the Sargent Beach coastline is the most eroded coastline in Texas and needs attention quickly.
McDonald said the Sargent coastline is an extreme high-risk area with extensive erosion and loss of critical habitat.
“This once robust shoreline is a critical buffer to the Gulf Intercostal Waterway (GIWW), a vital artery for our local, state and national economies,” McDonald said. “In past years, a healthy beach supported a variety of shorebirds and other wildlife as well as critical habitat for endangered species such as the piping plover. This habitat has vanished due to the excessive erosional processes and the GIWW is at risk of breach from the same unbridled coastal processes.”
McDonald said construction of the Sargent project re-establishes the beach habitat that provides not only forage and nesting areas for shorebirds and wildlife, but also provides a first line of defense to protect the healthy, thriving marshes and public and private property and infrastructure beyond the GIWW.
McDonald said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state of Texas as well as Matagorda County and Matagorda County Navigation District 2 have committed resources that have implemented state of the art technologies and science to study, model, design and permit a project to “shore up” a vulnerable, unprotected and exposed segment of the Texas coast.
The RESTORE Act, signed into law in July 2012, established a Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund (Trust Fund) that will receive 80 percent of the civil and administrative Clean Water Act penalties resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The Trust Fund supports five restoration components aimed at restoring the long-term health of the valuable natural ecosystems and economy of the Gulf Coast region.
Thirty percent of the money directed to the Trust Fund is managed by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council) to implement ecosystem restoration under a Comprehensive Plan, developed by the council with input from the public, to restore the ecosystem and the economy of the Gulf Coast Region. This 30 percent, of which approximately $150-$180 million is available for projects and programs, is referred to as the Council-Selected Restoration Component (commonly known as “Bucket 2”).