Here is a quick report out of impacts from Hurricane Harvey, Houston’s third 500-year flood in three years, to the Texas/Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge System and the Mission Aransas NERR. We have also listed a number of ways in which you can help.
Fourteen National Wildlife Refuges in Texas and Louisiana were affected by Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in late August 2017.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is still conducting assessments as to the extent of damage that the hurricane caused. Initial estimates suggest more than $336 million in damages to the real property assets in the refuges is likely — including damages to buildings, visitor centers, boat launches and piers, levees, trails, roads, and bridges. No estimates have yet been made regarding costs associated with recovering fish and wildlife habitats on the refuges. To put it in perspective, the entire National Refuge System operations and management FY2017 budget is $484.
In Texas, ten refuges were heavily impacted — Aransas NWR, Big Boggy NWR, Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR, San Bernard NWR, Brazoria NWR, Moody NWR, Anahuac NWR, Trinity River NWR, McFaddin NWR, and Texas Point NWR. Refuges that were affected in Louisiana are Sabine NWR, Cameron Prairie NWR Lacassine NWR, and Shell Keys NWR. Combined, these 14 refuges welcomed 1.5 million visitors in 2016. Eight of the refuges are still closed and one has only limited facilities. In refuges that have managed to reopen, many areas are still closed due to public safety concerns caused by continued flooding, structure damages, and debris.
Read more about the importance of these refuges to endangered species and ongoing relief efforts.
At Mission-Aransas NERR, facilities were damaged to some degree. The most severe was their Estuarine Research Center, which houses their labs and headquarters. They incurred roof damage and consequently severe water damage to the interior along with some surge on the ground floor. Thankfully, staff are OK, and they are in the process of moving offices and labs, as Texas A&M University in Corpus is lending them some space while they recover.
In addition, the University of Texas Marine Science Institute and the Texas’ Gulf Coast sustained damage of a different kind when they lost a true crusader for coastal beaches and wildlife. Anthony F. Amos, died Monday, September 4, 2017 at the age of 80 from complications of pancreatic cancer. For decades, Tony was one of the most visible people in the Texas Coastal Bend, tirelessly cultivating the public’s interest in coastal wildlife and explaining the need for conservation of birds, sea turtles, and other wild creatures. The Texas Animal Rehabilitation Keep was recently renamed the Amos Rehabilitation Keep in his honor.
Get Help and Give Help
The Business Advisory Council of the Gulf of Mexico Alliance is proposing a Texas Mini-Grant program to provide assistance to Texas coastal communities in their recovery efforts (and possibly another one taking shape for Florida communities). Targeted recipients are non-traditional audiences that won’t qualify for the larger Federal assistance that will be available in coming months. They must be located in the Hurricane Harvey affected area. Examples include:
Grants will be in the range of $5,000-$10,000 to meet immediate needs
Applications will require a 1-page statement of need and explanation of how the organization will use the funds. They will be evaluated to select those that qualify, are most needy, and have a valid mechanism to receive funds. GOMA intends to fund as many as they can. For more information please contact Laura Bowie. If your organization would like to participate by contributing to the fund, contact Laura by September 22nd.
Post-disaster recovery resources from Texas Sea Grant include websites, publications, and videos that were developed by other Sea Grant programs and state and regional agencies.The page will slowly be populated as new information is made available and vetted.
National Estuarine Research Reserve Association NEERA Harvey Recovery: Help Our Texas Reserve - http://www.nerra.org/how-you-can-help/give-today/
USFWS Southeast - Public advisory on sea turtle nests and Hurricane Irma - https://www.fws.gov/southeast/news/2017/09/public-advisory-on-sea-turtle-nests-and-hurricane-irma/