Aransas National Wildlife Refuge has slow recovery after Hurricane Harvey

Refuge located near Rockport was hit by hurricane twice

SAN ANTONIO – A dozen national wildlife refuges were impacted by Hurricane Harvey, including Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. The hurricane hit the refuge twice. 

Aransas NWR is located near Rockport, on the Southwest Side of San Antonio Bay, along the Gulf Coast. 

Storm surge and wind damage destroyed at least seven structures, and damaged others, including the visitor building, according to Joe Saenz, Aransas NWR manager.

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“We have what we call a contact station, so we no longer have any exhibits, but it’s a place where you can get information about what we have going on in the refuge,” Saenz said. 

This building was also where Saenz and many of the staff worked, but it’s no longer open. 

“We did have it tested for mold and right not it’s just for safety reasons we had to stay out of the building,” Saenz said. 

Hurricane Harvey also made great impact on the wildlife and habitat. 

“Some over 300-year-old trees that fell over after the storm are gone,” Saenz said. 

A damaged area that is still visible is the shoreline. 

“In this one storm, in this one event we lost over 20 feet,” Saenz said. 

“We found carcasses of birds like the pelicans and those are some of the pelicans, brown pelicans that are resident here,” Wade Harrel, Whooping Crane Recovery coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said. "The storm surge brought salt water inland to normally ponds that are fresh that the crane used to drink from."

The storm surge pushed a debris line over the marsh and into the upland areas. 

Visitor Misty Edwards comes to the refuge to relax, but says she will never forget the storm. 

“Very depressed. Everything we owned was completely gone,” Edwards said. 

Edwards lived on the coast. While everything feels unreal, she hopes people don’t forget. 

“Just pray for us,” Edwards said. 

While things will never be the same at this refuge, the staff is hoping to continue getting assistance. 

“Something that you see every day is now gone,” Saenz said.