Lavaca Bay Restoration, Point Comfort, Calhoun Co., Texas
Link to Global Restoration Network Case Study
From the late 1960s to early 1970s Alcoa (Alcoa, Inc and Alcoa World Alumina, LLC) operated a chlorine-alkali processing unit at its Point Comfort, Texas, plant that discharged mercury into Lavaca Bay. Coal tar processing contaminated other areas around the facility with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). In 1988, a portion of Lavaca Bay was closed for the taking of finfish and crabs for consumption after mercury levels in these resources were found to exceed levels considered safe for human consumption.
A trustee council, made up of representatives of the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC), the Texas General Land Office (TGLO), the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), was established to review, select, and oversee implementation of restoration actions for natural resources injured by the release of mercury and PAHs. A comprehensive restoration plan was developed and Alcoa implemented a suite of projects in and around the bay to compensate for natural resource losses resulting from the site contamination. A staged approach to restoration was adopted with the first stage focused on recreational fishing service losses. To offset these losses, three fishing piers were constructed, a boat ramp was replaced, two timber docks were built and an existing jetty was modified to improve access and enhance recreational fishing opportunities in the bay. The second stage focused on natural resource injuries and service losses of an ecological nature. To restore these losses, 729 acres of land were purchased for transfer to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for preservation as part of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, 70 acres of inter-tidal salt marsh were created within the refuge and 11 acres of new oyster reef habitat were created in Lavaca Bay.
The restoration projects implemented by Alcoa were identified through an expedited natural resource damage assessment (NRDA) process that was undertaken cooperatively with Alcoa and the natural resource trustees. The cooperative assessment process permitted comprehensive coverage of all NRDA issues associated with the site and led to good working relationships between federal/state partners, Alcoa, and the local community.