BAYOU LaBATRE, Ala. (WKRG) — It’s typical for seawalls to be built along the eastern and western coast of the United States to prevent flooding and erosion from storms. Alternative shorelines are a way to build back the buffer against deadly storm surge and create habitat for wildlife.

From slinging shrimp to building boats, Bayou La Batre’s industries have been thriving along the Gulf Coast, even before the Forest Gump days. Whatever happens in the Gulf, impacts these industries. Since the early 1900s about 600 yards of shoreline has been taken away by storms and the BP Oil spill. Climate change and sea level rising have also contributed to shore erosion.

“After the BP oil spill we realized we needed to step up and do something about our shoreline,” said Mary Kate Brown, The Nature Conservancy Coastal Projects Manager. “We are not building a house, then leaving. This has to be sustainable; this has to be something that’s functional and something that can be lifetime for them.”  

Something more than a seawall. Instead, an alternative shoreline which provides additional habitat to benefit the environment and industry. What use to be a drop-off to about 15 feet of water is now 1.5 miles of tidal creeks, marsh and bare sand.

Whenever a hurricane comes towards our coast, we are concerned with storm surge. Storm surge is the sea level rise associated with a a storm. You can find more information on storm on this WKRG Article.

The alternative shoreline creates a comfort zone for the coast. There is a line of rocks out ahead of the marsh that breaks down the speed of incoming waves. From there, the slowed down waves create a tidal pool over the marsh land instead of immediately flooding our coast. This will literally be a life saver in the future.

“All of these really absorbs the energy and the impact of the storm surge and really slows the wave energy down,” said Brown.

This will help protect local the industries from major storms, oil spills and anything that happens in the Gulf of Mexico. Timelapse video (in the video above) of a project completed just before Hurricane Ida shows how waves were slowed down by the breakwaters and marsh, reducing the chance of flooding and damage along this part of the coast.

In addition to protecting our coast during storms, these projects also help wildlife. Sediment was dredged from these creeks for the project. This created a tidal creek that weaves near the coastline. This opened up additional homes for wildlife and a neat new fishing spot for fisherman. Mounds of oyster shells create a great place for birds to perch. And more than 90,000 native plants were rooted into this marshland.

“A great habitat for blue crab and shrimp, all of the things that’s fisherman like to get. The fish started coming in and its just a really great habitat, we even have a small gator hanging out in these tidal creeks,” said Meg Goecker, Senior Coastal Scientist at Moffatt and Nichol. “Alternative shorelines can include a little bit of habitat, you get a little bit better fishing out front and we are not sloshing the waves all over the bay. We are letting the marsh bring the waves in slowly.” 

This project also created a great look out spot for residents and visitors to enjoy. A brand new fishing pier was installed near the inlet. There are plans for renovated docks, a fishing market and new parking in the future. This is how The Nature Conservancy and Mobile County is Growing the Gulf Coast!