Bayou Conservation Efforts
During the 1960's and 70's, Armand Bayou suffered extensive marsh loss. This loss occurred primarily due to subsidence or the sinking of the ground. In the Houston area, the pumping of massive quantities of ground water causes subsidence. It is estimated that areas along the bayou sank or subsided between four and nine feet. This shift in topography drowned over 90% of the emergent marsh vegetation along Armand Bayou. Marsh habitats play an important role in the life cycle of many marsh dependant species of fish, invertebrates and waterfowl. Recognizing the important values and functions of marshes, several resource management agencies and organizations began to experiment with restoring these critical habitats.
Armand Bayou Nature Center began marsh restoration efforts in 1992. Early efforts focused on creating a protective boundary (exclosure) around the restoration site to minimize wave energy and keep out herbivorous animals. After the exclosure was completed, the site was planted with marsh grasses. These original exclosures were built using hay bales held in place by placing bamboo poles through the bales into the bottom. Unfortunately, hay bale technology didn't prove to be durable enough to withstand the turbulent environment of the bayou. On windy days. the hay bales fell apart and the planted marsh grasses were uprooted.
In 1994 the Clear Lake Marsh Restoration Task Force was created. This group was organized by the Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF) http://www.galvbay.org and composed of local resource agencies and organizations including ABNC. The goal of the group was to determine the best restoration strategies to restore tidal marshes in the Clear Lake area. GBF began restoration efforts in Armand Bayou, planting eight marsh sites along the edges of the bayou. The exclosures were built of black and orange construction fencing. This plastic fencing material proved much more durable than the previous hay bale exclosures. Plant materials placed within the protective fencing was composed mainly of Smooth cord grass (Spartina alterniflora.)
In 1995, with the help of the Clear Lake Marsh Restoration Task Force, the most ambitious Armand Bayou marsh creation project was begun. A six-acre site was identified on the eastern shore of the bayou. Sediments were relocated with the use of a dredge to recreate the appropriate water depth to support marsh vegetation. Shortly after the sediments were deposited, the area was planted with Smooth cord grass. Today this site is a thriving marsh, the largest restored marsh on the bayou.
In 1998, ABNC began marsh restoration work with the help of CMP (Texas Coastal Management Plan) Grant funding. This project created 2.6 acres of fringe marsh along the edges of Mud Lake, Armand Bayou and Horse pen Bayou. Most of the plant material for this project, and every project that has ever been planted along Armand Bayou was donated by Reliant Energy. Reliant Energy owns and operates a native plant nursery located on Cedar Bayou in Baytown. If you are canoeing Armand Bayou, you may distinguish the ABNC sites from the GBF sites by the color of the fencing surrounding the restoration sites. ABNC sites have green fencing and GBF sites have orange fencing around the sites.
In 1999, ABNC participated in the first annual planting event titled Marsh Mania. The event is organized by GBF and is held at different planting sites around Galveston Bay. This is the single biggest marsh restoration day of the year, often attracting over 100 volunteers to ABNC to get in on the action. Marsh Mania 1999, 2000, and 2001 have created a total of 1.8 acres of marsh along the bayou. Marsh restoration efforts have largely been a success in Armand Bayou. Working with partnerships, grants, mitigation projects and a dedicated group of volunteers, over 12 acres of inter-tidal marsh have been restored along the bayou.