The Coastal Alabama Restoration project is creating a submerged breakwater reef along two stretches of shoreline in Bayou LaBatre and Alabama Port, Ala. The reefs, which are made out of bags of oyster shells, reef balls and ReefBLK, will protect more than 18 acres of habitat from erosion and create three acres of oyster reef.

Placement of these reefs had just begun in April when the Deepwater Horizon rig sank and oil began spilling into the Gulf. When the oil spill threatened the reefs, construction workers involved in the project reorganized to lay oil-collecting booms and prevent oil from reaching the area. Work was delayed for more than three months, during which time many NOAA staff were hard at work in the Gulf assessing the effects of the oil on coastal habitat and wildlife.

“Thanks to The Nature Conservancy, we were able to quickly change gears and redirect our efforts to protection from the oil,” said Meg Goecker, NOAA Habitat Restoration Specialist. “Although the long-term impacts are unknown, the oysters are still alive and multiplying on the reefs, so we were anxious to get back to work.”

Now that oil from the spill is no longer a threat to the project, workers are once again focusing on building the new oyster reef. The project, which received $3 million in funding from the Recovery Act, will restore and improve shoreline habitat and provide increased protection against storms and erosion, opportunities for commercial and recreational fishing, and improved water quality.

Learn more about NOAA’s coastal restoration Recovery Act efforts .