Living Shoreline Projects Move Forward in Florida, Mississippi

The completed Mississippi Hancock County living shoreline project built 6 miles of breakwater and 46 acres of oyster reef habitat.

Work continued making progress on two living shoreline projects in Florida and Mississippi this summer, building natural infrastructure that will help protect coastal habitats and communities in the Gulf of Mexico. Together, these projects are restoring more than 55 acres of marsh and 56 acres of reef habitat to help restore injuries caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Shorelines, marshes, and barrier islands provide protection for coastal communities and habitats along the Gulf of Mexico. However, many of these habitats have been lost or degraded due to storms, sea level rise, and industrial infrastructure. Living shorelines offer a nature-based method for preventing the loss of these valuable habitats and boosting the resilience of coastal communities.

Living shorelines use natural materials such as plants, rocks, and oysters to help stabilize shorelines and slow erosion, while also creating habitat for wildlife. Compared to traditional, hardened structures such as bulkheads, revetments, and concrete seawalls, living shorelines are often cheaper to build and maintain.

Two projects currently underway reached significant milestones recently, one led by the Florida Trustee Implementation Group and one led by the Mississippi Trustee Implementation Group.

Florida: Pensacola Bay Living Shoreline

Living shorelines along the bay shore in Pensacola Florida.
Four acres of new natural breakwaters
will be constructed in Pensacola Bay, Florida.

The Pensacola Bay Living Shoreline Project is expected to kick off construction this month. This $10.8 million project was part of the third phase of early restoration after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Living shoreline restoration techniques will be used to provide habitat and reduce erosion at Project GreenShores Site II. The project builds upon Project GreenShores, an award-winning habitat restoration and creation effort along the City of Pensacola waterfront.

Four acres of new natural breakwaters will be constructed to reduce wave energy and provide oyster reef habitat. Additionally, 9 acres of salt marsh habitat will be created along this urban shoreline. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, in partnership with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is leading the construction phase. Once the work is complete,  NOAA will lead monitoring of the project. Construction is expected to be completed by March 2022.

Mississippi: Hancock County Marsh Living Shoreline

Construction on the Hancock County Marsh Living Shoreline Project was completed in May 2021 with the creation of 46 acres of marsh habitat in Heron Bay. Previous work on the project included the creation of 6 miles of breakwater and 46 acres of oyster reef habitat, which finished construction in 2017. This $50 million project was also part of the third phase of early restoration. Construction was led by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.

Living shoreline techniques were used to reduce wave energy and shoreline erosion, and encourage reestablishment of the marsh habitat that was once present in the region. Four years of post-construction monitoring for the breakwaters and oyster reefs are showing success: shoreline erosion rates in the area have reduced, and marine species are using the reefs. The newly-constructed marsh will also be monitored once the area has settled. The monitoring phase is being led by NOAA.