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Jefferson Texas, Wildlife Habitat Restoration Project

This week trucks rolled into town to begin work on the Port Jefferson Wildlife Habitat Restoration Project. This is a big event in Jefferson Texas.They are starting in an area across the street from the Jefferson Visitor & Information Center.

For over 15 years this project has been in the works. Last summer dignitaries came to town, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison was the featured speaker at a celebration memorializing the start of construction for the Big Cypress Bayou Fish and Wildlife Habitat Restoration Project on August 9, 2011 in Jefferson.  The event was held at the historic Excelsior Hotel and was hosted by the Jessie Allen Wise Garden Club and the City of Jefferson.

Mayor Fratangelo called the day a special occasion to celebrate a new opportunity for a stronger and more resilient future for Jefferson. Dick Collins’ closing remarks thanked all who have been involved over the 15 year history of planning and development. “This project had stalled and would not be over the finish line without Jefferson’s mayor, Jeff Fratangelo.”

According to Mayor Fratangelo’s explanation of the benefits we will end up with the following lasting improvements:

1.    3 wetland cells totaling 2.9 acres,
2.    Selective thinning and removal of invasive vegetation and low quality trees,
3.    Replacement of invasive vegetation and low quality trees with native plant and tree communities,
4.    Bald cypress and water tupelo planting,
5.    Nesting boxes for wood ducks,
6.    Grading of the old roadway to match the topography of the landscape, and
7.    1,566 linear feet of raised walkway.

Clearly, the planned improvements will upgrade the ecology of this degraded area. In addition, the restored natural system will attract and hold wildlife that visitors desire to see including migrating neo-tropical birds, which draw well-to-do birders and experienced nature photographers. Water levels and durations in wetland cells will be monitored and controlled to meet the environmental requirements of the native plant and animal communities. And everyone will have permanent and safe access to this new community asset.”
The prothonotary warbler is an exotic migrant that may be seen in the West section. Our historic problem with mosquitoes from standing water located there will be addressed with mechanical and biologic measures. The water control structures will allow attendants to mechanically control flows and pool durations while biologic measure such as the increased presence of bats, predator insects such as dragonflies, and small fish such as the mosquitofish, Gambusia affinis, have been effective methods of controlling mosquitoes for over eighty years. Mosquito fish do not lay eggs, but rather give birth to live young. These fish, therefore, require no special environment, as most other fish do, for depositing and hatching their eggs. They breed throughout the summer and new broods are ready to begin the work of destroying mosquito larvae at once.

The ecosystem restoration alternatives planned for the western 38 acres of the project will restore environmental integrity, diversity, and stability. By taking advantage of natural drainages, the careful placement of low weirs (compacted earthen embankments) will retain water in existing low areas. Water control structures will allow the manipulation of water levels and retention times to promote the growth of native vegetation, improve habitat, and provide opportunities for the regeneration of bald
cypress and tupelo trees.

The City of Jefferson Texas and the Collins Academy strongly support the incorporation of history and nature education purposes and features into the design plan. These features are compatible with the Jefferson Open Space Master Plan, which calls for serving the surrounding region with new educational opportunities created by this project. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), there is an inadequate supply of these type facilities in our region.

Notice the trees behind the sign yesterday.

Today the trees on the hill are gone.

The tree removal men and equipment hard at work.

We will keep you posted with updates to the project as it progresses. For more information Please visit Port Jefferson Restoration

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