City of

Federal Legislative Agenda 2017

Quality of Life

Print Document

Support for the Section 206 Ecosystem Restoration Projects

Situation Assessment

The Riverbend area has been adversely impacted due to gravel quarrying and subsequent infestations of exotic plants. The recommended plan would help to restore the degraded ecosystem by enlarging existing wetlands, removing exotic plants and re-vegetating the existing aquatic and terrestrial systems with native plants species and restricting vehicular access to the area. Implementation of the project would substantially improve habitat for local wildlife, including three federally endangered species and several state listed threatened and endangered species.

 

This project will promote eco-tourism, habitat restoration, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and provide homeland security.

 

Background

Due to increased trade with Mexico, Laredo has increased its size from 30 square miles to over 90 square miles in less than 10 years. With this explosive growth, the availability of natural areas and green spaces has diminished considerably. In order to reverse this trend, the City of Laredo passed a Green Spaces Preservation Ordinance in 2004 that requires buffer zones along creeks and streams. This ordinance affects new development and will preserve the mid to upper areas of Laredo’s watersheds. The City is also seeking funds to purchase property and to develop natural restoration projects on developed properties that will tie into these buffer areas to create a linear park/conservation system throughout Laredo. Currently, the City has developed the Chacon Creek master plan, which will create a park/conservation system for Chacon Creek.

 

This project will transform Chacon Creek from Lake Casa Blanca to the Rio Grande into a park/conservation system that will tie recreation facilities, such as baseball parks and soccer fields, into untouched natural areas through a system of nature trails. Furthermore, the City of Laredo is developing an area of river front property near downtown Laredo (known as the River Vega Master Plan), which will be an economic stimulus for the downtown area as well as for tourism.

 

Another key project is the River Bend Ecosystem Restoration Project, which aims at restoring a unique area, which has historically been ravaged by erosion and misuse. The project was authorized by Section 206 of WRDA of 1996 (P.L. 104-303). The Army Corps of Engineers completed a feasibility study to refine the costs, benefits, and plans associated with the restoration of the river bend area. The plan, as presented, identifies the project to include cleaning and removing exotic plant species; stabilizing major areas of erosion; reforesting with native trees and shrubs; and excavating the gravel pits to expand the wetland area and create islands. The FONSI was signed in September 2013, and the design was completed.  In October of 2015, USCOE Fort Worth District awarded a contract to M.D. Merrett Inc. for $2.44 million for the removal of invasive species and illegally dumped debris. Construction began in 2016.

 

Project implementation is estimated to cost approximately $5.9 million; 65% of the cost would be shared by the federal government and 35% by the City. The City’s share consists of cash and/or in-kind services in the form of lands and easements.

 

Solution

This project is funded. City is looking to meet with USCOE to update them on the status of this project.

 

Target Agency

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

 

Contact

John Porter

Environmental Services Director

619 Reynolds St.

Laredo, Texas 78040

Phone: (956) 794-1650

Fax: (956) 727-7944

Email: jporter@ci.laredo.tx.us