PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

June 18, 2013

Restoring the marsh

County makes progress on Keith Lake Fish Pass baffle

Erinn Callahan
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — The Jefferson County Commissioners Court will proceed with efforts to secure Coastal Erosion Planning and Response Act (CEPRA) grant funding to complete design and construction of the Keith Lake Fish Pass baffle. The baffle will restore and prevent further loss to the marsh.

There are 66,000 acres of marsh located between the Gulf of Mexico and the Intercoastal Canal, County Judge Jeff Branick said at a meeting Monday, and both nature and man have taken their toll.

“It suffered a big whammy when they cut the Intercoastal Canal through,” Branick said. “Then, in 1977, they cut the Keith Lane Fish Pass through. It's not baffled at the front, so there's an unimpeded source of saltwater.”

Next came a storm named Ike, which completely destroyed the dune systems when it stormed through the Gulf Coast in 2008 — and if not for the marsh, the destruction would have been greater, said Precinct 3 Commissioner Michael Shane Sinegal.

“There was a barge on 73, so that tells you how much saltwater there was,” Sinegal said. “That marsh saved quite a bit of water from traveling even further and destroying I-10.”

A baffle will lower the salinity of the marsh and hopefully reestablish the vegetation, Branick said.

Sinegal said this is all part of a “huge ongoing process” to preserve the marsh and continue the Ike clean-up. He hopes to see Highway 87, the historic “beach road” between Sabine Pass and High Island, reopened before he leaves office.

“That's long term, but hopefully before I get out of office that's something we can break ground on,” Sinegal said. “ I grew up traveling Highway 87 — it’s a beautiful stretch of land that helps clear your head. But the marsh is something we have to do now.”

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter:@ErinnPA