By Earl Bittner, NAVFAC Southeast Public Affairs Office
PANAMA CITY, Fla. (NNS) -- Naval Support Activity (NSA) Panama City Public Works Department Environmental Division organized a shoreline restoration and beach cleanup event Sept. 23 along the northern shoreline of the installation in conjunction with the Ocean Conservancy group's International Coastal Cleanup.
The group, founded in 1972, works to protect the ocean from today's greatest global challenges. They create science-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. In the last 25 years, 144,606,491 pounds of trash have been removed from beaches during the International Coastal Cleanup.
"Just like the Ocean Conservancy group, the Navy's environmental team works hard to ensure the protection of the shorelines and installation for the wildlife and people that work, live, and play on our bases," said NSA Panama City Natural and Cultural Resources Manager Carrie Backlund.
There were over 60 people from NSA Panama City, military and civilians, and also the United States Coast Guard personnel who came and volunteered their morning for the event.
"We were able to pick up approximately one ton of garbage over more than half a mile of our shoreline," said Backlund.
Volunteers also assisted in building four oyster reefs. Backlund said the reefs and the restoration will help filter out storm water and keep sand from washing away.
"The reefs are a good habitat for young fish and will attract oysters and other marine life," said Backlund. "Also, by keeping the shoreline clean, we're being good stewards of the bay."
Volunteers picked up and bagged oyster shells at the NSA Panama City Marina. Other volunteers put the bags in the water several feet from the beach to create the reefs that will attract the marine life.
The installation of the Living Shoreline Oyster Reefs was mitigation to offset impacts from the MWR Dry Boat Storage project said Backlund.
"This event was important for a few different reasons. It is important to keep our shoreline clean for the everyone to use it and to continue to be good stewards of the bay and the environment," said Backlund. "With the installation of the living shoreline oyster reef, that will help with the dissipation of wave energy, decrease erosion, provide terrestrial and aquatic species habitats and foraging grounds and improve water quality."
In 2010, NSA Panama City began a restoration project to re-establish a coastal ecosystem along its shoreline on St. Andrews Bay. A total of 3,000 linear-feet of shoreline was restored at three locations on base in 2010. Volunteers planted 22,000 marsh grasses and installed 175 oyster reefs over an 18-month period.
"What we are doing now is adding to what was done in 2010," said Backlund. "In a few weeks we will be planting 350 salt marsh grasses to complete this current project."