Design is nearly complete. Construction is underway for foundations, parking lots, roads, and maintenance yard paving. The foundation work includes plumbing and conduit work of underground utilities into buildings. Design work has started for exhibits and landscaping.
Facilities on Matagorda Island - A scope of work was completed for Matagorda Island facilities that includes a new maintenance shop/bunkhouse, wellhouse/generator building, fuel station, chemical building, general storage, boat dock vehicle garage, repair of boat house, and repair of bulkhead (north and south end docks). Archaeological clearance is complete. A request for additional funds has been submitted for this project so solicitation for design and build contract would follow once funds are available.
Shoreline Protection Project - Being completed through a cooperative agreement with Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program (CBBEP). This project will help protect 4 miles of Aransas NWR shoreline, including Dagger Point. CBBEP hired Anchor QEA in 2019 to engineer and design this project. Anchor is responsible for securing permitting and other environmental requirements of this project. Seagrass bed and oyster bed surveys were completed this past spring to help determine the best placement for the breakwater structures designed to protect our shoreline.
Matagorda Island levees and water control structures - Also part of the cooperative agreement with CBBEP who has hired HDR for this project. HDR has done an overall assessment of the inner levee in West Marsh area of Matagorda Island, but funding available will only cover a portion of what is needed to restore the damaged levees and water control structures. They plan to begin construction in April of 2021.
Dredging of Air Force Channel leading to Matagorda Island - The USFWS currently has a contract (same contract that cleaned up the storm surge debris) in place to have the barge channel to Matagorda Island dredged. The contractor for this project is awaiting US Army Corp of Engineer permit for this project. This project is very important to our operations on Matagorda Island including new facilities construction, levee restoration, and habitat management activities.
Myrtle Foester Whitmire levee and water control structure repair - The USFWS has a cooperative agreement with Ducks Unlimited for this project for the repair of levees and canals and replacement of water control structures (approximately 18 miles of levees and 11 miles of canals). DU has a deadline of August 28 for bids to be submitted for this project and will most likely have a selection made by next week. Construction on this project would probably commence in early October.
Habitat Management Activities :
Refuge staff have mowed and disced moist soil units at Myrtle Foester Whitmire (Units 6, 6A, and 2) to prepare them for wintering waterfowl. Areas with dense stands of cattail were also treated with herbicides.
ACE interns were hired in June to assist with invasive species treatment (includes native nuisance species) on the refuge. They will be working on the refuge through mid November. Species treated include Chinese Tallow, saltcedar, cattail, Phragmites, mesquite, and huisache.
Approximately 360 acres on the Tatton Unit infested with mesquite were treated using herbicides. This project was accomplished through a cooperative agreement between the USFWS and CBBEP to benefit coastal prairie habitat.
Fire management staff have been prepping fire management units for summer burn units to benefit whooping cranes. Unfortunately we are currently in a fire preparedness level 5 (PL5) nationwide because of wildfire activities in the western states and our current COVID-19 situation so we will most likely not be able to accomplish these burns until conditions improve and contingency resources are available.
Visitor Services/Volunteer Activities:
Spending lots of time working with contractors on building design, now moving on to the beginning stages of exhibit design.
Trail work being done on Heron Flats. First phase is adding substrate to raise trail in wet spots. Next phase is placement of posts for bridge across slough, with final phase of building bridge hopefully complete this winter.
Refuge hunts moving forward with slight modifications. We will not have check station and cooler available this year due to construction, so hunters will access refuge via Refuge Back Gate Road.
Received kickstarter grant for new entrance and orientation signage from Headquarters. New branding effort underway to make the FWS more relevant and recognizable to all audiences.
Thanks to Visitor Services Manager Laura Bonneau for these updates!