Like the rest of the campus at University of Texas Marine Science Institute, Hurricane Harvey inflicted damage to the buildings and animal enclosures at the Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK). It’s been almost two months, but staff at the Institute have been working hard to get the ARK operational again with help and a jump start from donations and volunteer support. You can view a video of the damage here.
Before Hurricane Harvey made landfall, ARK staff evacuated all of the birds and moved the sea turtles to our more secure Oiled Wildlife Building. That building received minimal damage from the storm. Just two days after the storm staff released many of the turtles. Those that could not be released along with our injured shorebirds were moved to the Sea Life Center in North Padre Island. Since the storm, our rehabilitators have been based at the Sea Life Center taking care of the animals.
While the hurricane did minimal damage to the Oiled Wildlife Building, our other buildings did not fare as well. The bird mews, the greenhouse enclosure over the Barnacle Bill outdoor tank and the netting to the Pelican Enclosure were destroyed. The Edith McAllister Turtle Building also sustained significant damage to the exterior. All the equipment, like seawater pumps, associated plumbing, and electrical conduits that keep the facilities operational were destroyed or badly damaged. Our first priority was and is to provide seawater and power back to the facilities and repair or replace critical equipment. UTMSI Director, Dr. Dickey has already procured large temporary pumps on skids and we are currently working to restore the plumbing and electrical conduits. The hurricane also generated a tremendous amount of debris. University secured emergency contractors removed all of the large debris, including the bulk of the research pier adjacent to the ARK that was destroyed days after the storm.
Longhorns, Texans, organizations and countless others provided some immediate help. We are especially grateful to the Greater Good for providing $20,000 in a disaster relief grant and the International Fund for Animal Welfare for providing $10,000. Not all help came in dollars, last week local volunteers helped by cleaning out weeds in the Pelican Enclosure and picking up the thousands of pieces of small debris around the ARK. We’d also like to send special thanks to our “first responders” the Austin Fire Department, Abeline Fire Department, and Cleburne Fire and Rescue for their help power washing the Barnacle Bill tank.
As we move forward we will add trails, new bird mews, interpretive signage and walkways to enhance the visitor experience. This is made possible by a grant from the Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program before the hurricane and work on these projects will occur concurrently to the hurricane repairs. We hope to have the ARK ready to bring to service injured sea turtles and shorebirds by January 2018.
Thank you to one and all that have given so freely to help us bring back the ARK.