Sundown Island is an ongoing bird island restoration project for the Audubon Society. The project is located in Matagorda Bay, immediately inside of the Matagorda Shipping Channel inlet. The project objective is design and construction of comprehensive shore protection solutions to manage erosion of the island and grow the overall Island plan area.
The island hosts substantial numbers of nesting Brown Pelicans, gull-billed tern, royal tern, sandwich tern, black skimmer and other birds. In 2014, Sundown hosted 16,070 breeding pairs, representing 18 species, including many of conservation concern (e.g., royal tern, sandwich tern, black skimmers, reddish egrets and rosette spoonbills). Sundown was identified as one of 15 priority nesting sites for the reddish egret by the Gulf Coast Joint Venture.
Historically, the island received dredge material every 12-16 months which helped maintain this important colonial water bird rookery. Beginning in 2007, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway was realigned, essentially removing this sediment source, while currents, waves and ship wakes from passing vessels in the nearby Matagorda Ship Channel have gradually reduced the island from near 100 acres to its present size of less than 65 acres.
For this initial phase of the project, there were several primary tasks achieved to meet the project design objectives:
Freese and Nichols provided ecological and engineering design support, implemented regulatory expertise to solicit agency input and raise project awareness, facilitated steering and guidance for the multi-agency advisory team, and provided scientific and technical expertise for the design alternatives and selection of the preferred alternative presented to Audubon.