LOS FRESNOS, TX, Dec. 14, 2009 -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has awarded $681,000 through The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) to JCF Bridge and Concrete, Inc of Driftwood, Texas to build two 80 to 85 foot bridges, and reinforce a channel wall at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in South Texas.
The two bridges will span two-of-the-three Refuge channels created in the last four years that have helped restore more than 10,000 acres of wetlands. Before construction of the new channels, upland terrain became covered in silt affecting adjacent communities by causing public health and safety concerns and killing native vegetation. The bridges will allow refuge staff to manage the project by providing improved heavy equipment access and greater mobility on this large tract. In addition, the reinforcement of one of the channel walls will prevent the channel from narrowing thus improving the flow of fresh water in and out of the basin.
"Thanks to Recovery Act funding, this project will create work, support the economy and continue a restoration process that provides long-lasting benefits to the area's ecosystem," said Benjamin Tuggle, PhD, regional director for the Service's Southwest Region, which includes Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona.
Laguna Atascosa NWR is one of the last strongholds in the United States for the ocelot, a small cat that once roamed from South Texas into Arkansas and Louisiana. This species has been reduced to approximately 50 animals in the United States primarily to loss of habitat.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed earlier this year gave $3 billion to the Department of the Interior. The ARRA funds represent an important component of the President's plan to jumpstart the economy and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so the country can thrive in the 21st century. Under the ARRA, Interior is making an investment in conserving America's timeless treasures - our stunning natural landscapes, our monuments to liberty, the icons of our culture and heritage - while helping American families and their communities prosper again. Interior is also focusing on renewable energy projects, the needs of American Indians, employing youth and promoting community service.
"With its investments of Recovery Act funds, the Department of the Interior and its bureaus are putting people to work today to make improvements that will benefit the environment and the region for many years to come," Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said. Secretary Salazar has pledged unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability in the implementation of the Department's economic recovery projects. The public will be able to follow the progress of each project on www.recovery.gov and on www.interior.gov/recovery.
Secretary Salazar has appointed a Senior Advisor for Economic Recovery, Chris Henderson, and an Interior Economic Recovery Task Force to work closely with Interior's Inspector General and ensure the recovery program is meeting the high standards for accountability, responsibility, and transparency set by President Obama.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect to enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For questions, comments or concerns email us at [email protected]. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.