Building Conservation Trust – Oyster Reef Restoration

Project Summary: 

Oysters serve many purposes beyond seafood menus. From filtering water to controlling shore erosion, healthy oyster reefs create a plethora of benefits to marine ecosystems. In turn, these healthy oceans provide positive outcomes to the communities that live, work and play on the shores nearby. Over many decades, oyster habitats suffered damage along the Texas coast due to dredging, construction, and natural disasters. Building Conservation Trust is working to reverse this damage by restoring these vital structures and educating local communities and businesses on the benefits of healthy reef systems.

Building Conservation Trust (the National Habitat Program of Coastal Conservation Association), Texas Parks and Wildlife, and Coastal Conservation Association Texas have teamed up to restore 27.7-acres of oyster habitat in Sabine Lake. This habitat suffered damaged over the years due to sedimentation from human activity such as the construction of the Sabine-Neches Intracoastal waterway and ship channel. This habitat restoration not only benefits the ecosystem in the lake, but also the recreational angler industry, small businesses, and the local economy of nearby communities. Through the partnership with Texan by Nature, Building Conservation Trust aims to increase awareness of the importance and economic significance of coastal habitat projects such as oyster reef restoration. 

Project Mission:

 Building Conservation Trust was created to provide vital funding for grassroots-driven projects that achieve one or more of five key objectives: Restore degraded habitats, create new habitats, advance the science of coastal habitat and marine fisheries conservation, foster habitat stewardship, and educate coastal communities on the value of conservation.

Project Impact:

Historical evidence indicates that the restoration area experienced heavy sedimentation during the construction of the South Spoil Area on the south end of Pleasure Island in the 1960s during dredging of the Sabine Neches Intracoastal Waterway and Ship Channel. The eastern oyster is an ecosystem engineer critical in creating reef habitat. The organic biomass created by oyster reefs form the foundation of coastal food webs and provide refuge from predation and nurseries for numerous estuarine fish and invertebrates. They also provide shoreline stabilization, reducing coastal erosion and sedimentation. They act as major biological agents through filtration in nutrient cycling and water quality processes.

Through environmental assessments of Sabine lake, it was determined that the conditions are suitable for oyster reef growth. Adjacent to the Sabine lake restoration site there is a substantial established reef which will allow for oyster larvae recruitment. This historic reef complex has not been commercially harvested for over 40 years. Situated on the border between Louisiana and Texas, the oyster reef system in this 90,000-acre estuary is likely the largest un-fished oyster reef in the U.S. These reefs are critical for water filtration, foraging territory for large predatory fish, and provide habitat for small reef organisms. Proactive measures within the Texas portion of Sabine Lake are appropriate to enhance valuable oyster habitat in the event oyster harvest does begin again on the Louisiana side of Sabine Lake. This phase of the project is expected to reach completion by the end of 2018. Building Conservation Trust and CCA Texas have partnered together and committed to providing $100,000 towards this project.

Partners Include:

Building Conservation Trust, Coastal Conservation Association – Texas, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and Texan by Nature


Project Goals: 

This project will add to a network of small patch reefs that were strategically placed to supplement the nearby natural and historic Sabine Lake reefs. Building Conservation Trust hopes to achieve this goal by:

  • Restoring degraded habitats
  • Creating new habitats
  • Advancing the science of coastal habitat and marine fisheries conservation
  • Fostering habitat stewardship among local and statewide stakeholders
  • Educating coastal communities on the value of conservation.

Texan by Nature‘svision is that the Sabine Lake oyster reef restoration will be the example of economic storytelling for aquatic restoration. TxN will create a framework for calculating positive economic and community impact of coastal restoration. TxN hopes that local community and business leaders will participate in and replicate this model TxN’s support will allow BCT to accelerate future restoration projects and create local community buy-in that builds a culture of conservation, shaping local and state policy decisions that benefit healthy reefs. Texas’s unique coastal waterways contribute positively to the people, prosperity, and natural resources of the state, and protecting them is of utmost importance to those who value economies and ecological regions rich in growth. 


Are you a business or corporation that would like to support Oyster Reef restoration? Email here for information!

Are you a local organization interested in volunteering with BCT’s efforts? Email here for information!

Are you a civic or community leader interested in learning more about how healthy reefs benefit your local economy? Email here for information!


Title Link
One Pager- BCT Oyster Reef Download

Tangible Results



The local communities surrounding Sabine Lake call Jefferson and Orange counties home. These residents benefit from clean water, as well as increased economic opportunity brought in by improved angling in the area.

Local community members are invested in this project’s success! They engage in events that promote good environmental stewardship, including projects with Building Conservation Trust.


$61K-1.2M /yr.

Oyster reef ecosystems have a conservative economic value between $5,500 and $99,000 per hectare per year!*

Therefore, the economic value of BCT’s project is from $61,000-$1,108,800 per year to the local region.

This project benefits both the ecosystm and local economy by providing opportunities for recreational fishing (anglers contribute more than $1 million to a local economy annually!) and divers.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department estimates that more than 52,000 anglers and 6,000 divers visit TPWD artificial reef sites on charter boats every year. With an estimated 900,000 saltwater anglers and 250,000 divers in Texas, demand remains high for fishing and diving opportunities at these reef sites.

*According to a study by Grabowski et al. 2010

Natural Resources

27.7 acres

Although this specific project encompasses 27.7 marine acres of Sabine Lake, the impact spreads much further.

303 different aquatic species have been identified that use Sabine Lake oyster reefs as habitat, refuge, and food.

Oyster reef habitats support nearly 4.5 times the aquatic biomass found in seagrass beds and roughly 11.5 times the aquatic biomass found in marsh edge habitat (Glancey et al. 2003)

One oyster filters 50 gallons of water a day. Additionally, reduction of algal blooms and ultimately hypoxia events will result in fewer fish kills, maintaining the recreational value of the area.

Learn more about this project

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