J.D. Murphree WMA Improved

DU and TWPD improve 1,500 acres of important marsh on the Salt Bayou Unit

DU used a barge and crane (left) to replace cast iron gates (right) in five concrete bays.

DU used a barge and crane (left) to replace cast iron gates (right) in five concrete bays.

Photo © Ducks Unlimited

Ducks Unlimited and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) completed a project in early December to improve more than 1,500 acres of important marsh habitat on the Salt Bayou Unit of J.D. Murphree WMA.

The environmental and economic benefits of wetlands and prairies along the Texas Gulf Coast are tremendous and the marshlands south of Port Arthur are no exception. Coveted by anglers and hunters for their abundant wildlife, these marshes also provide storm surge protection for the citizens and industries of Chambers, Jefferson and Orange counties.

The Salt Bayou water control structure was installed in 1995 to prevent the influx of saltwater into the north end of the Salt Bayou system. Since then, the structure has corroded from exposure to high saline waters and sustained damage from hurricanes. Multiple leaks developed and many flap gates are either missing or inoperable. The structure no longer functions properly, and TPWD staff cannot control the influx of saltwater into the northern reaches of Salt Bayou.

Ducks Unlimited provided survey, design, engineering and construction oversight services to restore management capabilities to the unit. Once completed, the structure will allow TPWD to control salinity and water levels in the Salt Bayou Unit and restore beneficial wetland plant communities.

J.D. Murphree WMA provides important habitat for waterfowl that winter along the Texas Gulf Coast and year-round habitat for mottled ducks and other wildlife and fisheries. Over the past 100 years, loss of emergent coastal wetlands has reduced vegetation, soils and long-term resource sustainability within the area.

The $540,000 project contributes to the goal of the Salt Bayou Watershed Restoration Plan, a multi-partner, long-term effort to conserve the Salt Bayou system and ensure its continued benefits for wildlife, fisheries and the community.

This project was included as match in a NAWCA proposal Ducks Unlimited submitted in July 2017. If awarded full funding, DU, TPWD and Jefferson County will have leveraged $1 million in NAWCA grant funds to complete future projects that will enhance and restore 3,400 acres of waterfowl habitat on the Texas Gulf Coast.