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The Southeast Region

Mangroves in Florida

The Southeast Region is home to mangroves, coral reefs, wetlands, and oyster reefs. This unique habitat provides jobs, food, and recreational opportunities, but they also face threats from development, pollution, fish passage barriers, and erosion. Since 1996, the NOAA Restoration Center has been working in the region to restore habitat and has supported approximately 670 community restoration projects, benefiting more than 40,000 acres of marine fishery habitat and opening almost 150 stream miles for fish passage.

What We Do

In the Southeast, 80 percent of wetlands have been lost since the region was settled by Europeans due to development, erosion, and other factors. We work with our partners to restore these wetlands by protecting shorelines and reestablishing tidal flow. In Louisiana, where we lose 25 square miles of wetlands a year, funding from the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act helps to implement large-scale wetlands restoration projects, including barrier island restoration and terrace and channel construction.

In the Gulf Coast, more than half of oyster-producing areas are permanently or conditionally closed. We work to rebuild oyster reefs and to create oyster sanctuaries to improve these shellfish populations. In North Carolina alone, more than 4,000 miles of coastal plain streams are partially or completely obstructed. To restore migratory fish passage, we modify dams, locks, and other impediments, allowing fish access to vital habitat.

Case Study—Bahia Grande Restoration, Brownsville, Texas

The Bahia Grande after restoration

The Bahia Grande is an 11,000 acre complex of three estuarine basins in south Texas. Once a highly productive shallow water system, it became a massive, salty sand flat in the 1930s when the Port of Brownsville dredged the Brownsville ship channel, and the water supply for this tidal system was cut off. The Bahia Grande dried up, and its drifting sands became the source of numerous health and industrial problems in the Brownsville area.

In 2005, we worked with our partners to re-establish tidal flow. The project cut multiple channels to reintroduce water to the area, and native plant nurseries provided plants for re-vegetation efforts once tidal flow was restored to the system. The implementation successfully reconnected more than 10,000 acres to tidal influence, the area has been relieved of blowing dust, and the ecosystem is once again abundant with plants and aquatic life.