RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Bahia Grande, the largest tidal restoration project in Texas, and one of the largest coastal wetland restoration projects in the United States is becoming an invaluable marine sanctuary.
It is home to vast schools of redfish, countless colonial waterbirds, and a refuge for thousands of migratory waterfowl.
Situated between the cities of Brownsville and Port Isabel along the lower Texas coast just north of the Rio Grande, Bahia Grande’s 10,000-acre wetland provides a thriving haven for myriad marine species.
Construction of the ship channel connecting the Gulf of Mexico to Port of Brownsville in the early 1930’s cut off tidal flow to Bahia Grande drying a productive estuary and creating an immense dust bowl.
After more than 25 years of cooperative effort with some 65 partners, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service purchased the Bahia Grande property in 2000 and in 2005 dug the first channel to begin refilling the historic wetland.
The Bahia Grande unit is part of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, which encompasses more than 113,000 acres, and the 40,000 plus acreage east of Rio Hondo represents the largest tract of native wildlands open to the public in southernmost Texas.
While Bahia Grande is open to scheduled tours and yearly public hunts for nilgai, the fragile recovering estuary is not open to fishing beyond refuge boundaries and anglers regularly crowd the adjacent Gayman channel.
Today, nearly a century after its destruction, Bahia Grande is once again becoming a productive estuary, and within its protected boundaries undisturbed marine life thrives providing an invaluable resource replenishing the entire Lower Laguna Madre ecosystem.
The historic wetland and native coastal prairie restoration are one of the greatest wildlife success stories in the nation, in stark contrast to the ongoing destruction of miles of rare and historic Loma habitat for a Liquefied Natural Gas terminal just across Highway 48 from Bahia Grande.