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marsh hawks

marsh hawks

The Port of Houston is about to destroy what we Texans think is a pretty nice sailing area. The attachment is a picture of the spoils area that they want to fill. Doing so will most likely destroy HYC’s ability to run large keelboat races and, in fact, destroy the club completely. It will seriously depress sailing events across the entire bay.

If any of you feel the need please write a letter to Ms. Denise Sloan.  Here is a detailed comment from Houston Yacht Club’s Fleet Captain James Liston, and you can read the thread here. –Anarchist Beeracuda

As you are now probably aware, the Port of Houston is seeking a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to use the clay, sand, and silt dredged from the Bayport channel to create a 475-acre marsh alongside the Bayport Ship Channel in Upper Galveston Bay. I encourage all sailors and users of Galveston Bay to use the public comment procedure to let their feelings be known and express any concerns about this proposed use of the Upper Bay. Citizens are able to submit their comments, by regular old-fashioned mail, through the US Army Corps of Engineers

Ms. Denise Sloan
Regulatory Branch, CESWG-PE-RB
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
P.O. Box 1229
Galveston, Texas 77553-1229

Naturally, given the location of the Houston Yacht Club (HYC) and its racing area, HYC is quite concerned about any plans to create a marsh, or spoils island, in this area of the open Bay. But it would be a mistake to believe this is simply a matter of one yacht club being upset because “its” backyard is being encroached on, or that HYC sailors will have to play elsewhere. The proposed project is monumental and has grave consequences for not only for sailors and those who use the Bay, but for the Bay itself. Many people are not necessarily against the Channel being widened and deepened. They just feel that the dredging byproducts should be disposed of properly and in a location where they don’t ruin the Bay.

The notion that the proposed marsh, which would sit alongside the busy Bayport channel in the upper Bay, will support a wetland-type habitat or anything environmentally beneficial appears contrary to experience with other spoils areas. The fact that ships’ wakes and wash would flow alongside (over) the Marsh further erodes the idea of an ecosystem. Let’s be frank: first and last, this is a matter of finding an expedient place to dump spoils. Right now, there are other already designated areas for dumping spoils that don’t involve filling-in the Bay. This project has been on the public radar for about a month or so now and will have an incalculable effect on the entire Bay, and yet the ecological ramifications are unexplored. For starters, the issue of how a large marsh would affect the ability of Bay water to move back and forth in the event of a hurricane has not been explored. And yet the comment periods end in a month. Perhaps the first comment of any interested citizen should simply be, “SLOW DOWN! Further study is necessary.”

From a recreational sailor’s and boater’s point of view, the idea of converting large portions of the open Bay into area shallow, semi-submerged areas of ‘marsh’ or spoils bank is offensive, especially if there are few ecological benefits. Worse, the precedent this project would set for further development of the Bay is staggering. Dumping dredge spoils alongside the channels will soon reduce the Bay to little more than a shallow swamp crossed by a deepwater channel. Recreational activities, such as racing, on the Bay will be impeded, and recreational boats will be forced into the ship channels to travel to different parts of the Bay. It’s not just about HYC–it’s about all forms of boating, sailing and fishing on Galveston Bay.

I encourage you to join in echoing concern in making sure that dredge spoils are placed where they belong, and not change recreational boating areas forever. The Corps is taking written public comment on the project until July 5, 2012.