- Associated Press - Thursday, August 7, 2014

ROCKPORT, Texas (AP) - A nearly $10 million project to dredge a South Texas bayou is ahead of schedule.

The contractor said the work on Cedar Bayou near Rockport is about 75 percent finished, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported (https://bit.ly/X48Pfl ). The channel could be flowing by September, which is about a month earlier than the project’s Oct. 15 deadline set by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The pass north of Rockport that once separated San Jose and Matagorda islands silted in years ago, cutting off the Aransas Bay system’s connection to the Gulf of Mexico. The project is expected to provide flow to nearby Vinson Slough on the backside of San Jose Island.

Biologists say an open pass would help improve water quality and give easier access for marine species that depend on the Gulf of Mexico for spawning.

The digging began April 15, and the project was approved by the Army Corps in August 2011.

Contractor Randy Boyd said crews worked 12-hour days to beat the October deadline, which roughly coincides with the expected arrival of whooping cranes in the region.

Boyd said the project would be delayed only if a tropical storm hit the area or if the birds arrived earlier than anticipated.

A biologist is at the site to survey and record protected species, such as water birds and sea turtles.

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