Living shorelines and artificial reefs paving the way for cleaner water

Okaloosa County

DESTIN, Fla. (WKRG) — More living shorelines and artificial reefs are popping up in Northwest Florida.

The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA) installed part of a new oyster reef this week in the bay north of Sandestin.

Hundreds of pounds of limestone is one of many materials used to create a reef base. Others are made of crushed-up oyster shells in bags.

“(We’re) literally building a shoreline comprised of biological entities,” said CBA ecologist Brennan Wehrhahn.

In comparison to a sea wall or bulkhead, made popular in the ’70s and ’80s, artificial reefs and shorelines will not erode.

“You can see that in Destin harbor where the sea wall has ended and started to hyper-erode the beach into Noriega point,” Wehrhahn said.

This newly installed 20-foot reef will create positive impacts once oysters attach to the rock.  

‘It is slowing down shoreline erosion, so it’s building back shoreline or building back beaches,” Wehrhahn said. “It’s creating habitat so these oysters going in is making habitat for other animals. And it’s improving water quality so so oysters filtering water every day is making more clean and visible water.”

To get a living shoreline or reef, you have to get a permit. With groups like the CBA, grant money helps keep the projects at a low to no cost. The organization also taking steps to improve living shorelines with innovation.

‘We are also experimenting with a new Antietam, where we are creating prisms or triangles out of jute — jute, and crushed oyster shells and concrete,” Wehrhahn said.

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