Aransas County Navigation District (ACND) commissioners, at their regular meeting Monday, Oct. 7, voted 3-2 to approve a proposal from Belaire Environmental to perform Biological Monitoring of the Little Bay Living Shoreline, which is the 28 oyster reef breakwaters which are strategically placed parallel to Business Highway 35 S. and Fulton Beach Road.
They can be seen jutting above the water’s surface during low tide.
ACND Harbor Master Keith Barrett said the original permit called for monitoring for a three-year period, which has been completed.
The additional year of monitoring will cost $8,750.
“This will just verify it’s all going well. It just adds another year of monitoring,” he said.
Commissioner Tommy Moore said the reefs are “very, very healthy”, and he was going to vote against the additional year of monitoring.
After the meeting Barrett said he has seen a lot of activity around the reefs.
“The naked eye test says those reefs have definitely helped Little Bay,” he said. “You used to not catch many fish. Now people are, and that’s a sign of its health.”
Chairman Malcolm Dieckow, and commissioners Tony Dominguez and Judy Vlasek voted to monitor the reefs for one more year. Commissioners Mickey Casterline and Moore opposed the measure.
Commissioners, at their Jan. 7 meeting, received the last of the reports required by the original permit for the reefs.
At that meeting Barrett said, “The reefs have held up good through storms, an abundance of rain, and high tides.”
Oyster samples were taken at 28 locations during the three-year monitoring period.
“The oysters are quite large and plentiful,” said Barrett. “When the project started there were a lot of doubters who said it wouldn’t be successful.
“It’s hard to even fathom these results.”
The final sampling showed there are 9.8 live oysters per square foot on the reefs.
Barrett said the 9.8 live oysters per square foot is greater than the goal of five live oysters per square foot, but less than what was found during the previous sampling.
“That’s most likely due to the 28.5 inches of (freshwater) rain runoff into Little Bay,” said Barrett.
Vlasek suggested the district continue the sampling program for another year.
“That way we can see if (oysters) are in decline, or if it bounces back,” she said.
Barrett also noted some seagrass beds are growing as well.
“Before the reefs being put in, Little Bay was completely void of seagrass,” he said. “We are starting to get seagrass to return. There’s no better filter for seagrass than oysters. They are an important part of the ecological life in Little Bay.”
The full report can be found on the ACND’s website.