A 12-mile segment of Highway 98 that traverses Apalachicola Bay on the Florida panhandle lies directly beside the water’s edge. Wave energy, rising tides and severe storms make this stretch of shoreline, and the adjacent roadway infrastructure, particularly vulnerable to chronic erosion.
Due to the importance of this highway as a designated hurricane evacuation route, millions of dollars have been spent trying to protect the roadway. Over the years, efforts have been undertaken to stabilize the shoreline using various types of armoring, including vertical concrete seawalls, rock riprap, concrete rubble and articulated-concrete block mats. However, the shoreline and critical waterfront asset have continued to sustain damage.
Unlike natural habitats, such as oyster reefs and saltmarshes, manmade armoring is unable to repair itself after being damaged by waves. Taking this into account, the Apalachee Regional Planning Council (ARPC) partnered with WSP USA to explore a different approach involving design and implementation of a living shoreline project.
The nature-based solution involves establishing an intertidal marsh through the introduction of oyster reefs to attenuate wave energy. As the largest oyster fishery in the United States, the economy and ecology of Apalachicola Bay have always been closely intertwined — the oyster fishery has suffered significant decline in recent decades and nearly total collapse in 2012. The project will enhance ecological functions of the coastal habitats and help to restore the hard-hit oyster fishery, while also building the resilience of the shoreline and infrastructure.
Initially, our team assisted ARPC in developing the project concept and prepared grant applications. ARPC was awarded funding for the project through National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Emergency Coastal Resilience Fund and Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund programs. We then completed an initial Coastal Conditions Analysis and gathered field data needed to support the design including ecological surveys, geotechnical data, and elevation surveys, and are providing design, construction support and monitoring through 2024.
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