Cooperatove Conservation Project

Marsh Terracing Project

Using New Technology to Restore Marshlands

Location: South-Central/South-West Region: Texas

Project Summary: The project incorporated marsh terracing to restore fishery habitat and to test the cost effectiveness of this new restoration technique.
Click for Full Size
Father and son volunteers plant smooth cordgrass on terraces at Galveston Island State Park. (PHOTO BY KERRY STANLEY)
Resource Challenge

When Galveston Island State Park was established in the 1960’s, it had 900 acres of salt marsh. Fifty years later, that amount had dwindled to just 100 acres because of "land subsidence" and shoreline erosion. Land subsidence, or sinking, in the state park was caused when groundwater outside the park was removed for residential and agricultural uses. Over the years, much of the Park’s salt marsh habitat was converted to shallow, open water, too deep to support marsh vegetation.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the USDI Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) launched a restoration plan, funded from grants through the Coastal Wetlands Planning Protection and Restoration Act, National Estuary Program, and Natural Resource Damage Assessment program.

Examples of Key Partners

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service, Texas General Land Of. ce, FWS, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Reliant Energy, Galveston Bay Foundation.

Results and Accomplishments

 A restoration team devised plans to restore park wetlands using marsh terracing, a relatively new technique used to convert shallow water to marshland. Under this method, terraces, or ridges, are constructed at the correct elevation for marshes. NOAA Fisheries Service asked planners to incorporate three different sizes of terrace cells so they could assess their relative value in restoring marsh habitat.

The cells, or ridges, were arranged in a checkerboard pattern, and following construction, were planted with smooth cordgrass. More than 125 acres of marsh terraces were constructed. NOAA’s follow-up research showed that marsh terracing rated very highly compared to other restoration methods, and that constructing terrace . elds with the medium-sized cells was more cost effective than building the terrace fields from small or large cells. The research results should lead to more effective, efficient marshland restoration on future projects, both at the Galveston Park and elsewhere. The restoration team was awarded a Coastal America Partnership Award in 2001 to recognize its efforts to restore Galveston Island State Park’s coastal habitat.


Project partners designed an experiment to test a new technique for restoring the Park’s marsh habitat, providing valuable information for future projects.

Project Contact
Mr. Bob Stokes
Galveston Bay Foundation



To request additions or corrections to this case study email the Administrator