Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that The Nature Conservancy’s Mobile Bay Oyster Reef Restoration project will receive support from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to create 35 to 40 jobs and restore coastal habitats in south Mobile County, Alabama.
“The immediate impact of this funding will be the creation of 35 to 40 new jobs, primarily construction jobs, in Bayou La Batre,” said Mary Austill Lott, coastal program director for The Nature Conservancy in Alabama. “These jobs will make it possible to enhance fisheries—and, in turn, local communities—that have been hard hit by Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina, as well as by drought and economic strife.”
In collaboration with the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, the University of South Alabama, and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources State Lands Division, the Conservancy will use the funding to create a “living shoreline” oyster project along two stretches of eroding shoreline, totaling nearly two miles in Mobile Bay and Portersville Bay.
Using natural methods to promote the growth of oyster reefs, this project will create an estimated 1,500 meters of submerged breakwater reefs. These reefs will absorb the impact of wave energy from storms and boat activity, thereby protecting the shoreline from erosion while enhancing habitat for fish, birds and invertebrates. Submerged oysters also filter impurities from water, helping to improve water quality and enhancing the viability of seagrass meadows and salt marshes, essential habitats for juvenile fish and invertebrates.
In addition to the Alabama project, the Conservancy received funding for seven other coastal restoration projects across the U.S. to restore and protect coral reefs, oyster reefs, seagrass beds, salt marshes, salmon streams, and floodplains. Marine habitats such as these provide people and nature with a variety of essential services such as water filtration, protection from the effects of natural disasters and storm surges, fisheries, as well as economic and recreational opportunities.
“During the selection process, NOAA received over 800 proposals totaling more than $3 billion in requests for restoration funding, yet only $160 million in NOAA funding was available,” said Lynne Hale, Director of the Global Marine Program at The Nature Conservancy.“ This overwhelming response demonstrates the profound need for increased restoration and the stewardship of our oceans and coasts,” added Hale.
For nearly 10 years, the Conservancy and NOAA have worked in partnership to implement community-based restoration projects at sites across the United States. The projects selected under ARRA will employ nearly 450 people who will devote more than 500,000 hours of labor to the engineering, project management, contracting, planting, and monitoring associated with completing these eight projects over the next two to two and a half years. The Conservancy will begin work immediately in Alaska, Alabama, California, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, US Virgin Islands, Virginia and Washington.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.