Many questions remain about the sea turtles of the Gulf of Mexico following the disastrous hurricane named Ike that devastated upper Texas coast beaches in September. Will the Kemp's ridley return to nest next spring? What about all the sand that is needed for sea turtle nests which has been moved inland or swept away?
Plans are being made to restore beaches starting with Galveston. The Galveston city Park Board has announced plans to spend more than $7.5 million dollars to restore its beaches with 400,000 cubic yards of sand. Since numerous nests have been found on the beaches at the Galveston Seawall during the last few years, this is a welcome announcement. The sand will be dredged on the eastern end of the island and trucked to the Seawall for placement from 10th to 61st Street. The Texas General Land Office and the city of Galveston have stated that they hope to complete the project by March 31, before Spring Break and the peak of the tourist season, and the beginning of nesting season for the endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtles.
Meanwhile staff and visitors at the Padre Island National Seashore are watching tons of debris wash up on the beaches. The washing machines, dryers, lumber and roofing material mixed with personal items of storm victims must be moved from National Seashore and South Texas beaches before the first Kemp's ridleys arrive to lay eggs.
Volunteers will be needed to patrol upper Texas coast beaches this spring more than ever. Dr. Andre M. Landry, Jr. of Texas A&M University at Galveston will be coordinating patrols on Galveston Island Bolivar Peninsula and said "Beaches need to be patrolled, regardless of their present state and their status over time, to ascertain whether the upper Texas coast can continue to play a role in sea turtle nesting and recovery."
He also stresses the importance of monitoring data on nesting activity for making sound recommendations to state and federal agencies charged with maintaining beaches. The integrity of the beaches is vital for providing favorable nesting habitat, a buffer from storm related events, and a source of revenue through tourism and ecotourism to support communities like Galveston and Bolivar.
Dr. Landry also wants to thank all STRP members who contributed to the fund to meet a challenge grant from Houston attorney Joe Jamail. Mr. Jamail said he would contribute $25,000 if it could be matched by others when the Texas General Land Office notified Dr. Landry of a $50,000 budget cut from the federal government for patrolling. STRP members and others stepped up to make the match so patrols will resume on the upper Texas coast for the next nesting season of the Kemp's ridley sea turtles.