Importance of barrier islands during hurricane season/ restoring the coast

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Galveston Bay Foundation Clear Lake Forest living shoreline

HOUSTON (CW39) – When hurricanes make landfall, barrier islands absorb much of their force. Reducing wave energy and protecting inland grounds.  

“Within the Galveston Bay system, we still have our barrier islands which is Bolivar Peninsula and Galveston Island. We are worried about sea level over time. A projection of 3-4 ft will take away a lot of those barrier islands.”, Says Bob Stokes.  

They also provide a sheltered environment that enables estuaries and marshes to form behind them, giving a home to native wildlife vital to the Gulf Coast.  

“Think about things like the grand canyon, that is a long-term erosion issue right there. And we see similar issues in Galveston Bay. The erosion, it scalloped out the interior of out property.”, He adds.  

To combat this issue, rock breakwaters are set up just off the coast, essentially providing the same benefit as barrier islands, on a smaller scale.  

Stokes says, “When that wave slows down after it hits the rock breakwater the sediment slows down, it drops out, and it can build back. We are building land between the rock breakwater and our shoreline. To ultimately protect our shoreline. If we have rock, land, then shoreline, we have a lot more protection from future waves and future storms.” 

Many homeowners use concrete bulkheads to protect their property, this works in the short term but sometimes the waves tear out from underneath it and the concrete bulkhead will fall over.  

A living shoreline is in the process of being built here: this is a more natural stategy for preserving your coast.  

“We have worked with homeowners across the bay to try and do something that is natural and in some cases is cheaper and will last longer. A concrete bulkhead is eventually going to fail. If you put a rock system in that has the rocks and it builds back the marsh. That will be there forever, so I think that as we get into hurricane season, we will start to have a more extreme focus on some of these issues, but they are year-round issues, and we are always willing to work with people throughout the year. If we were to lose those barrier islands over time, galveston bay may be more like the gulf of mexico rather than a freshwater system.”, Says stokes.   

We must keep in mind that hurricanes are natural, and the ecosystems that lie within the texas coast have been here longer than us.  

Stokes mentions, “The systems are designed to interact with the hurricane, there may be some short-term impacts…Certainly there are impacts to people who live on the coast…But if we weren’t here, a hurricane would blow through there might be some short-term salinity changes, there might be some changes to freshwater wetlands that might be inundated with salt water, but they would recover. The bay and the surrounding lands are pretty resilient.”  

During hurricane harvy, heavy rain poured down into galveston bay diluting the salinity to near zero.  

“Oysters can’t handle that, so our oysters really suffered. Most of the oysters died, but the good news there is that they rebound. We are almost 4 years later, and we have a healthy crop of oysters for 2020 and 2021.”, Stokes says.  

Galveston Bay Foundation also hosts Marsh Mania every year! This event rallies all the “marsh maniacs” from southeastern Texas to plant marsh grass in our local wetlands.

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