Coastal restoration project is a point of pride for Southeast Texas



Much of modern environmental damage simply cannot be changed; Think of the extinction of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, a magnificent bird that once inhabited the deep forests of southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana. But some of these negative trends can be reversed, and Jefferson County is a prime example.

The county’s coastal restoration project we reported on Sunday isn’t just one of the biggest such efforts in the country. It’s the biggest, and it’s impressive. The commissioner’s court recently approved part two of a 20-year effort to restore the county’s adjacent beach, dunes and marshes. This work is funded in part by penalties resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 which brought in more than $ 1 billion to the state.

The local work is encouraging, and in many ways Jefferson County is the perfect place to make it happen. It is the home of the Chenier Swamp – the largest in Texas at 139,000 acres. The county itself is one of the most ecologically diverse regions in the country, with a mix of marshes, grasslands, swamp pine forests, cypress bayous, grasslands and estuaries.

The county’s coastal restoration project focuses primarily on where land and water interact. McFaddin Beach is being built in sections, and sand dunes are being built as well. This work complements the restoration of the marshes, as it helps keep the salt water of the Gulf of Mexico out of these marshes, which are primarily home to freshwater plants, marine life, and animals. When beaches and marshes are more rugged, they can absorb more of the energy of a hurricane blowing off the Gulf and thus help reduce property damage inland.

Cities and counties in the region should be aware of the benefits of this restoration project and try to copy it in their jurisdictions where possible. It’s not just good for the environment; it improves the quality of life of local residents and helps attract visitors, whether they are fishermen, hunters, bird watchers, hikers or campers. These activities have increased in recent years, and places like Southeast Texas that have so much to offer will attract more of these visitors – and the money they spend.

It’s also worth noting that this is all happening in a county that is home to one of the country’s largest petrochemical centers, with four major oil refineries and numerous chemical plants. They’re an unusual couple, but restoration efforts like this show that businesses can coexist harmoniously with plants and animals if enough precautions are taken.

The water pollution that was so common in Southeast Texas has been largely eliminated, but air quality still needs to improve. As this effort continues, the coastal restoration project is making great strides. We need progress like this with all of our environmental challenges.



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