Texas Approved for Coastal Impact Assistance Grants

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas, January 13, 2009 (ENS) – Texas coastal protection and restoration projects in 18 shoreline counties will soon receive an infusion of cash from the federal government.

Minerals Management Service Director Randall Luthi Monday signed the Texas Coastal Impact Assistance Program Plan, CIAP, making available more than $48 million through federal grants.

This program helps coastal states and coastal political subdivisions within states that have either supported or been affected in some measure by outer continental shelf oil and gas exploration and development.

Texas became the third state to receive approval from the federal agency for its CIAP plan. Louisiana and Alaska both have approved plans.

Texas is now eligible to submit grant proposals for CIAP projects involving conservation, restoration, and protection of natural coastal resources.

Erosion has washed away this Texas beach. (Photo courtesy Government of Texas)

Luthi joined Texas General Land Office Deputy Commissioner Jody Henneke in a signing ceremony at the Port of Corpus Christi, 10 miles southwest of Pelican Island, a project site included in the plan.

“The Minerals Management Service welcomes the opportunity to fund these vital projects for the state of Texas and 18 of its coastal counties,” Luthi said. “Restoring and protecting natural coastal resources is fundamental to the CIAP mission.”

Pelican Island is owned by the Port of Corpus Christi and is located in Corpus Christi Bay. This island has been one of the most important brown pelican rookeries on the Texas Coast, averaging more than 1,000 pairs over the last five years.

In addition to brown pelicans, 13 other species of colonial waterbirds routinely nest in large numbers on Pelican Island, including great blue herons, roseate spoonbills, reddish egrets, terns and gulls.

The Port of Corpus Christi has begun preliminary work on widening and deepening the Corpus Christi Ship Channel to more easily accommodate larger vessels, a project not expected to be complete until 2019.

But long before that, in 2011, the Port plans to construct a breakwater and a retaining wall to prevent erosion of Pelican Island from the waves stirred up by the passage of big ships.

This project may now be eligible to qualify for CIAP funding. Each qualifying project must comply with one of five authorized CIAP uses:

1. the conservation, protection, or restoration of coastal areas, including wetlands

2. mitigation of damage to fish, wildlife, or natural resources

3. planning assistance and the administrative costs of complying with CIAP legislation

4. implementation of a federally-approved marine, coastal, or comprehensive conservation management plan

5. mitigation of the potential impact of offshore oil and gas activities through funding of onshore infrastructure and public service needs

Created by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, CIAP disburses $250 million annually for four years, 2007 through 2010, to six eligible Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas producing states – Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Alaska, and California.

The first phase allocated $48.6 million for each of the fiscal years 2007 and 2008, to Texas and the 18 counties.

The states and counties are eligible to receive the funds from the previous years as long as they have an approved CIAP plan. The plan submitted by Texas detailed 136 projects that would be completed using the FY 2007 allocation.

The allocation of the $48.6 million will be divided, with 65 percent of the funding, $31.6 million, going to the state of Texas and 35 percent, $17 million, being split among the 18 coastal counties.

The largest share, $3.3 million, 19 percent of the counties’ funding, will go to Harris County, where shorelines were damaged by Hurricane Ike last September.

Even before Ike, Galveston beaches were eroding. In October 2007, the Texas General Land Office announced a $13.5 million project – the largest beach project in Texas history – to restore at least three miles of eroded Galveston beaches. Funding for the project will include $6 million in proposed state CIAP funding, $1.25 million in county CIAP funding other state and local funds.

The 367-mile-long Texas gulf coastline loses around 235 acres of lands to erosion each year, equivalent to more than 181 football fields of beach, according to the Texas General Land Office.

“On a global scale, the sea level is rising, and that affects coastal erosion,” says Dr. Gary Jeffress, director of the Conrad Blucher Institute for Surveying and Science at Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi. “It’s a force of nature and apparently due to climate change. The extent of mitigation to sea level rise depends on how much money you can throw at it.”

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