Iselin, N.J. — Hatch Mott MacDonald (HMM) took part in a ceremony marking the reopening of Cedar Bayou, a passage between Mesquite Bay and the Gulf of Mexico near Rockport, Texas. Coast & Harbor Engineering, a division of HMM, was retained in 2005 to investigate the physical processes controlling the hydraulics of Cedar Bayou, and assess the feasibility of restoring the passage. The bayou, which separates the islands of San Jose and Matagorda, was intentionally plugged in 1979 to protect local wetlands, including the habitat of the endangered whooping crane, from an oil spill in the local area.

Aransas County secured a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers in 2011 for a new effort to unblock the bayou. Excavation began in April 2014, with HMM providing expertise in design, permitting, and construction. Approximately 540,000 cubic yards of material were removed with a hydraulic dredge, excavators, and off-road trucks, and on September 25 Cedar Bayou and nearby Vinson Slough were reconnected to the Gulf.

“We are delighted to have worked with Aransas County and the Coastal Conservation Association to complete this challenging and vital project,” said Hugo Bermudez of HMM.

Aransas County Judge Burt Mills made the first dredge to reopen the bayou. Calling it “a dream come true,” Mark Ray, board chairman of the Coastal Conservation Association, said the project was one of the biggest his organization had been involved with.

According to the CCA, “Quantifying the economic benefits of reopening Cedar Bayou is difficult but that does not suggest that the benefits are uncertain. Restoring Cedar Bayou will improve the productivity of the bay system. More fish, more crabs, and more birds mean more birders, more fishermen, more hunters and more visits by folks who love the Texas Coast. More visitors mean more business for local fuel stations, hotels, restaurants, outfitters, marinas, bait stands, sporting goods stores and the like.”