Rep. Steve Southerland Tours Panama City’s Living Shoreline
Oysters Provide Natural Defenses for Coastal Communities
PANAMA CITY, Fla. | August 07, 2014
Hand-harvested oysters are a local treat enjoyed by Panama City’s residents and visitors alike, but many don’t know that oysters also provide a valuable service to the Department of Defense.
In 2010, the Naval Support Activity Panama City (NSA PC) began a restoration project to re-establish a coastal ecosystem along its shoreline on St. Andrew Bay. Volunteers planted 22,000 marsh grasses and installed 175 oyster reefs over an 18-month period.
Today, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and NSA PC took U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland (FL-2), and others on a tour of the naval base to show the results of how oysters are playing a key role in buffering the shoreline from erosion.
"I grew up here, and fished in these waters,” said Southerland, looking at the results of the project along St. Andrew Bay. “I see the value in habitat restoration projects as nurseries for the fish that inhabit the bay and the Gulf, and for protecting shorelines from erosion as well. I am thankful for the partnerships like this one between the Navy and many other organizations, that come together to ensure our local environment is protected."
Shorelines are often stabilized with hardened structures, such as bulkheads, revetment, and concrete seawalls. But these structures often increase the rate of coastal erosion, remove the ability of the shoreline to carry out natural processes, and provide little habitat for estuarine species. The Nature Conservancy, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Defense and others are implementing a more natural shoreline stabilization technique called “living shorelines.”
Living shoreline projects utilize a variety of structural and organic materials, such as wetland plants, submerged aquatic vegetation, oyster reefs, coir fiber logs, sand fill, and stone to provide shoreline protection and maintain valuable habitat.
"The loss of shoreline can be detrimental to local fish and other estuarine species, so this restoration project enhances juvenile habitats and foraging grounds for the fish of St. Andrew Bay," said Jonnie Smallman, Natural Resource Manager for NSA PC.
The benefits of living shorelines include: reduction in erosion, protection of surrounding riparian and intertidal environment, improvement of water quality via filtration of upland run-off, and the creation of habitat for aquatic and terrestrial species.
A living shoreline, like the oyster restoration project at NSA PC, is one example of how nature can be an ally for the Department of Defense.
"We anticipate NSA Panama City's Living Shoreline will increase public awareness of coastal systems, educate coastal property owners about the advantages of living shorelines, and provide an effective educational strategy to teach school-age children the importance of protecting our precious bay, which were the original goals of the project" said Smallman.
Additional natural buffers have been proposed for restoration along the Gulf of Mexico coast using RESTORE Act funds from the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill and many will buffer military installations situated along the coast. NAS Pensacola, McDill AFB and Eglin AFB are rebuilding oyster reefs and stabilizing shorelines.
“The partnership between the Department of Defense and The Nature Conservancy began in the 1980’s with a forest and species management program. It continues today with a robust program to buffer the bases with conservation lands, connect the bases to other protected areas and restore eroding shorelines and riverbanks,” said Deborah Keller, the Director of Military Relationships for the Florida Chapter of the Conservancy. “It is a valuable partnership for DOD and our natural resources.”
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the web at www.nature.org. To learn about the Conservancy’s global initiatives, visit www.nature.org/global. To keep up with current Conservancy news, follow @nature_press on Twitter.