Information provided by Pensacola & Perdido Bays Estuary Program
The Pensacola & Perdido Bays Estuary Program (PPBEP) is pleased to announce the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has awarded $24 million for three projects in the Pensacola and Perdido Bay Watersheds.
The NOAA awards include $10.9 million for the Pensacola Bay Oyster Restoration Initiative, $12.8 million for the Perdido Watershed Initiative, and $300,000 for the EscaRosa Oyster Shell Recycling Program.
“This is a transformational opportunity to advance coastal restoration in our region that would normally take decades to implement. We are incredibly thankful to NOAA for seeing the value of these collaborative initiatives, and to our partners for their commitment to seeing them through. These projects are key to implementing our Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan and the long-term recovery of our estuaries”, said Matt Posner, Executive Director of the Pensacola & Perdido Bays Estuary Program.
Funding for NOAA’s Transformational Habitat Restoration and Coastal Resilience Grant Program was made available under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, providing unprecedented funding to restore habitat and strengthen resilience of coastal communities and ecosystems.
“Thanks to NOAA and the project team for all the hard work that went into making these projects a reality. This is a great example of working across state boundaries to accomplish large-scale watershed-based goals. We look forward to implementing these great projects that will enhance resiliency across the watersheds and provide additional resources to enhance the natural environment, which is the foundation of our communities and economy”, said Woody Speed, Chairman of the Pensacola & Perdido Bays Estuary Program Board.
The Pensacola Bay Oyster Restoration Initiative, to be administered by PPBEP, establishes a transformational vision to restore 600-hectares (1,482 acres, the size of approximately 1,482 football fields) of oyster habitat in the Pensacola Bay System over the next ten years to enhance ecosystem resilience, rebuild a sustainable fishery, and improve economic vitality. Specifically, the project will:
- Design and permit 600-hectares (1,482 acres) of oyster habitat restoration
- Construct Phase I of the Initiative, targeting up to 100 ha. of oyster habitat restoration (the size of about 247 football fields)
- Complete a sediment load assessment to aid in prioritizing oyster restoration locations
- Design and permit the Sandy Hollow Gully Restoration Project in Santa Rosa County that will reduce direct sediment inputs into the Escambia River
- Implement a Living Shoreline Cost Share Program
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Florida, Santa Rosa County, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection have partnered with PPBEP to implement the Initiative.
“The Nature Conservancy is grateful to NOAA for funding this visionary project and to our partners and the community, working together to support the Pensacola & Perdido Bays Estuary Program. This project is an unprecedented and transformational approach to revitalize the area’s oysters and estuary at the speed and scale needed for recovery and sustainability of oyster habitat, oyster fisheries, and their ecosystem services never before seen in the Gulf of Mexico”, said Anne Birch, Oceans and Coasts Strategy Director for TNC in Florida.
“It's an honor to be part of the PPBEP and the great work the Program is doing for watersheds in Santa Rosa, Escambia, Okaloosa, and Baldwin counties. This grant will make a great direct impact on our waterways and will also help with inland gullies and other point sources of soil erosion”, said Santa Rosa County Commissioner Colten Wright.
The Perdido Watershed Initiative, to be administered by TNC in Alabama, aims to enhance ecosystem and community resilience in the Perdido watershed in both Alabama and Florida through the integrated planning, implementation, and monitoring of multiple innovative restoration approaches and techniques. Specifically, the project will:
- Complete a shoreline habitat vulnerability assessment
- Update and synchronize a Living Shoreline Suitability Model
- Enhance community capacity to integrate Nature-based Solutions projects
- Complete restoration designs for the City of Orange Beach’s Waterfront Park Living Shoreline, Gilchrist Island, Robinson Island, Walker Island, Lillian Swamp, and Bronson Field Living Shoreline and Hydrologic Restoration
- Implement a Living Shoreline Cost Share Program, the City’s Waterfront Park Living Shoreline, Robinson Island Restoration, and the Rainwater Preserve Stewardship and Hydrologic Restoration
PPBEP will work with TNC in Alabama to implement the project, serving as a subawardee and lead implementer of the Living Shoreline Cost Share Program and design of the Bronson Field Living Shoreline and Hydrologic Restoration Project. Partners include the City of Orange Beach, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Mississippi State University, Troy University, University of South Alabama, and Moffat and Nichol.
“It truly takes a village to enact change and to create better outcomes for the people and places that matter to us all. The depth and breadth of this project and the seamless collaboration of our partners is what made the difference”, said Judy Haner, Marine Programs Director for TNC in Alabama.
The Gulf of Mexico Community-based Oyster Shell Recycling and Reef Restoration Network, to be administered by Restore America’s Estuaries, includes a partnership of six organizations located across the Gulf Coast to advance oyster shell recycling and restoration. PPBEP will serve as a subawardee to continue funding the EscaRosa Oyster Shell Recycling Program for the next three years. Funded in part by Santa Rosa County’s RESTORE Act Direct Component funds and PPBEP’s Community Grant Program, the EscaRosa Oyster Corps, part of Franklin’s Promise Coalition, has provided oyster shell recycling services and workforce development opportunities for young adults in the community for the last three years. Funding from NOAA will ensure program sustainability and support the collection of recycled oyster shells from participating restaurants for use in coastal restoration in Pensacola and Perdido Bays.
The mission of the Pensacola & Perdido Bays Estuary Program is to restore and protect the Pensacola and Perdido Bay watersheds through restoration, education, and unbiased monitoring of the health of our bays, estuaries, and watersheds.
The Pensacola & Perdido Bays Estuary Program serves as a trusted source for residents, businesses, industry, and the community on issues relating to preserving, restoring, improving, and maintaining the natural habitat and ecosystem of the bays, estuaries, and watersheds of Pensacola and Perdido Bays.
Dive in at www.ppbep.org or follow @ppbepflal on Facebook and @pensacolaandperdidobaysprogram on Instagram. Learn about simple steps you can take to protect our waters at estuary101.com.