Living Shorelines Initiative: Community Partnerships in Estuarine and Coastal Restoration Projects for the Florida Panhandle
Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent
Many local agencies, organizations and Sea Grant Extension Agents in the Panhandle have been involved with the implementation of the Living Shorelines Initiative (LSI). The initiative has brought together more than 20 agencies, non-government organizations, private landowners, community leaders, planners, consultants and contractors from Mississippi to Florida. Working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Coastal Programs’ coordinator, Melody Ray-Culp, the group has coordinated workshops for more than 250 participants across the Central Gulf of Mexico. In addition, funding from the USFWS Coastal Program has been secured to develop the Grasses in Classes program in 2 schools in each of the five northwest coastal counties in the Panhandle (Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton and Bay), the LSI “cookbook” of living shoreline best management practices and funding for demonstration projects.
Living shorelines along Blackwater Bay in Santa Rosa County. Photo Credits: Chris Verlinde
Why is it important to promote living shorelines along the Gulf Coast? Shoreline hardening takes place when seawalls, revetments and other hard structures are used to protect shorelines. These practices eliminate natural shoreline functions such as: nursery habitat for marine species, foraging habitat for wading birds and the natural flood control functions of a natural shoreline. In addition, hardened shorelines lead to degraded water quality and can cause erosion on adjacent properties. As more development comes to the Panhandle, it is important to promote these “softer” approaches as an alternative to hardening the shorelines.
Living shorelines (LS) use plants and other natural materials to stabilize the shoreline, minimize coastal erosion and maintain natural coastal processes. Living shorelines enhance natural habitat for property owners as well as fish and other wildlife.
Things to consider when planning for a living shoreline include: slope, width and shape of beach, fetch (distance of water that generates the waves), wind velocity, wave energy and duration, vegetation that is already in the area, boat wakes and shoreline protection along the surrounding properties. These considerations will help to determine if your site is appropriate for a living shoreline.
Permits must be obtained from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers. In the future, the permitting process for smaller projects (less than 150’ of shoreline) will be easier, as a result of the hard work of the LSI group.
The goal of LSI is to establish living shorelines as the primary means for protecting eroding shorelines in the coastal areas of Northwest Florida where appropriate, steering coastal protection toward soft alternatives and away from hardening of the shoreline. LS habitats include: fresh and saltwater marsh, seagrass beds, oyster reefs, and dune systems. In some cases, a hybrid approach using natural or biodegradable products such as coir fiber logs and mats, wood and rocks may be used in conjunction with plants for shoreline protection
The Grasses in Classes component of the LSI has provided materials to construct estuarine pools for growing estuarine plants and production pads for dune plants. Students have been involved in the construction of the pools and pads, propagation of the plants and planting plants in appropriate areas. In addition, curriculum materials have been provided to participating teachers to further enhance the experience. Students have planted plants at various restoration sites in the Panhandle.
Upcoming living shoreline workshops will be held in Pensacola, Florida June 8-9 and Apalachicola Florida, May 26, 2010.