Ducks Unlimited is building breakwaters on the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area (WMA) to protect Texas coastal marsh habitats. Rock breakwaters are used along navigation channels such as the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway to halt shoreline erosion and reverse adjacent marsh degradation and loss through saltwater intrusion and soil loss. Breakwaters provide immediate benefits by halting erosion, marsh loss and saltwater intrusion, while also providing longer-term benefits by promoting vegetation recovery and serving as a substrate for oysters and other crustaceans.

Supported by a $250,000 grant from the Meadows Foundation, Ducks Unlimited will construct approximately 1,500 linear feet of breakwater to protect 2,500 acres of coastal marsh on San Bernard NWR and adjacent private lands. The Meadows Foundation gift will also be used as a nonfederal match to apply for a North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant to further this conservation effort.

The Meadows Foundation is a private philanthropic institution established in 1948 by Algur H. and Virginia Meadows to benefit the people of Texas. The foundation's mission is to assist the people and institutions of Texas to improve the quality and circumstances of life for themselves and future generations.

In a related project, DU is constructing 11,000 linear feet of breakwater on the J.D. Murphree WMA near Port Arthur, Texas, to conserve 1,000 acres of coastal marsh with funding provided by the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, Coastal Conservation Association, Coastal Impact Assistance Program, NOAA&inus;National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Approximately 4,000 linear feet have already been constructed, with the remaining construction scheduled to be completed within the next year.

The marsh protected by these breakwater projects is the most valuable habitat type for wintering waterfowl that visit the Texas coast. Without the protection of shoreline breakwaters, these fragile wetlands would likely be converted to saline marsh due to saltwater intrusion from eroded natural banks and tidal channels. Saline marsh has considerably lower foraging value to waterfowl, further exacerbating the current shortage of quality foraging habitat along the mid- and upper Texas coast. By protecting valuable wetlands in this region, these breakwater projects will contribute significantly to the habitat goals of the Gulf Coast Joint Venture. DU is also working to complete preliminary breakwater prioritization modeling in upper and mid-coast counties of Texas. These efforts will help determine where breakwaters can make the biggest positive impact on marsh conservation and waterfowl foraging habitat.