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Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program Wins Third-Place Gulf Guardian Award

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Jennah Durant or Joe Hubbard (

DALLAS – (Nov. 30, 2017) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Gulf of Mexico Program recently announced the Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program will receive a third-place 2017 Gulf Guardian Award in the Civic/Non-Profit Category. The program is recognized for restoring 160 acres of marsh habitat in the Nueces Bay.

Ben Scaggs, Director of Gulf of Mexico Program said, “Whether for individual recreational use or as an economic engine supporting a wide variety of jobs and industry, the Gulf of Mexico is a vibrant yet vulnerable ecosystem. Protecting this national resource requires innovative approaches and proactive measures. The Gulf Guardian award winners are paving the way for ‘out of the box’ thinking and replicable practices.” 

The Nueces Bay Marsh is a 160-acre marsh restoration project along the Nueces Bay Causeway between Corpus Christi, Texas, and Portland, Texas. Once a thriving bay ecosystem and essential habitat for juvenile fish, shrimp and crabs, as well as feeding grounds for bigger fish and birds, the marsh began to decline in the 1940’s when construction began on the Highway 181 Nueces Bay Causeway. The construction and related dredging lasted almost 15 years and resulted in the loss of about 180 acres of highly productive marsh. In the years that followed, an additional 160 acres of marsh was lost due to erosion and subsidence. The loss not only harmed the fish and wildlife in the marsh, but it threatened the Highway 181 corridor and associated infrastructure.

To restore the marsh, Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program (CBBEP) began planning in 2005, and broke ground on construction in 2009. Over the last 10 years many funding partners have assisted with the $5.3 million restoration effort, with more valuable contributions coming from volunteers and the public. 

The project benefits the health and productivity of the Gulf by creating a 160-acre marsh complex in an area that had seen significant habitat loss in the last 50 years. The Nueces Bay is connected to the Gulf of Mexico via Corpus Christi Bay and Aransas Pass. The Nueces estuary is so critical to the growth and development of shrimp that it was designated by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a shrimp nursery area, and there is no commercial shrimping allowed. Many marine species will benefit from this restored nursery grounds. 

The Gulf of Mexico Program initiated the Gulf Guardian awards in 2000 as a way to recognize and honor the businesses, community groups, individuals, and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive. First, second and third place awards are given in seven categories: individual, business/industry, youth environmental education, civic/nonprofit organizations, cultural diversity/environmental justice, partnership and bi-national efforts. This year’s ceremony will be held on November 30, 2017, at the Grand Hotel Marriott Resort in Point Clear, Alabama.

The Gulf of Mexico Program began in 1988 to protect, restore, and maintain the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem in economically sustainable ways. The Gulf of Mexico Program is underwritten by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is a non-regulatory, inclusive consortium of state and federal government agencies and representatives of the business and agricultural community, fishing industry, scientists, environmentalists, and community leaders from all five Gulf States. The Gulf Program seeks to improve the environmental health of the Gulf in concert with economic development.

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