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Nature Conservancy Begins Rebuild Of Historic Texas Oyster Reef

Using an innovative approach, the project will contribute to the resiliency of Matagorda Bay

AUSTIN, Texas, Nov. 1, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Nature Conservancy has begun work to reconstruct Half Moon Reef, a once-massive oyster reef that has virtually disappeared over the last century in Matagorda Bay, one of the largest estuaries and most productive fisheries in Texas.

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20131101/DC07842)

During November and December, crews will install three miles of limestone reef rows to create a 45-acre reef, approximately seven to eight feet beneath the bay surface. The project is being financed with a $3.8 million grant through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Coastal Impact Assistance Program, which is administered through the Texas General Land Office.

"This really is an innovative approach to oyster reef construction," said Mark Dumesnil, associate director of coastal restoration for The Nature Conservancy in Texas, explaining the unique three-dimensional design of the reef and the 'domino effect' of benefits it will have. "When you have healthy oyster reefs, you have excellent habitat for small fish and other reef-dependent species, reliable food for bigger fish and water filtration. All of that leads to healthier commercial and recreational fisheries, a first line of defense against storms and hurricanes, cleaner water and a more resilient ecosystem overall."

Surveys from the early 1900s suggest the reef was once 400 acres. Several factors over the last century have led to its demise, including the release of a major log jam on the Colorado River in the 1930s that sent sediment flooding into Matagorda Bay; the rerouting of the Intracoastal Waterway in the 1940s; and Hurricane Carla, which pummeled the region in 1961.

In addition, oyster shells became a popular construction material in the early 20th century; as dredging intensified, millions of cubic yards of oyster shell were removed from reefs hugging the Texas coast.

This trend also played out on a global scale.

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