In 2019, CBA began work on a new reef breakwater in the “Woods” neighborhood of South Walton. The line of breakwaters – which will eventually extend 600 linear feet – will create area along the shoreline where marsh grasses can grow and stabilize the sediment.
Living shorelines are defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as: “a shoreline management practice that provides erosion control benefits; protects, restores, or enhances natural shoreline habitat; and maintains coastal processes through the strategic placement of plants, stone, sand fill, and other structural organic materials (e.g. biologs, oyster reefs, etc).” As an alternative to seawalls and rip rap, these living shorelines reduce erosion while creating important wildlife habitat. Because the stones in this breakwater are made of limestone, they will act as a new home for juvenile oyster spat as well.
Across the country, estimates peg shoreline hardening using rip rap or seawalls at 14% of the total coastline. Unfortunately, this percentage is expected to grow in the 21st century. Hardened shorelines can increase erosion on adjacent properties, as well as diminish critical salt marsh habitat for native plants and animals.
In the Choctawhatchee Bay, parks, Eglin Air Force Base, and private homeowners have stepped up to showcase the effectiveness of this green infrastructure on their properties. While CBA has battled cold weather and windy conditions to finish the new reef breakwater in the neighborhood. With each stone placed by hand using metal jon boats and good, old fashioned muscle power, a little more shorline is protected! The team hopes to finish by the end of February.
Once complete, grasses and other plants will be planted behind the limestone to hold the shoreline in place. In the future, CBA will monitor the site for fish, crabs, and other species that will call the restored coast home. To learn more, please visit basinalliance.org.