By Dr. Mark Clark and Dr. Savanna Barry
If you’ve been to Cedar Key lately, you may have noticed heavy machinery and lots of activity going on at Joe Raines Beach and adjacent properties (pictured above). This activity is all due to the Cedar Key Living Shoreline and Tyree Canal Enhancement Project, led by Dr. Mark Clark and Cedar Key residents Bill Delaino and David Beach. This project has been years in the making and is very exciting for the community because it will enhance the natural and cultural resources along this stretch of shoreline.
What is a “Living Shoreline”? The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defines a living shoreline as “a shoreline management practice that provides erosion control benefits; protects, restores, or enhances natural shoreline habitat; and maintains coastal processes through the strategic placement of plants, stone, sand fill, and other structural organic materials (e.g. biologs, oyster reefs, etc).” The basic idea is that erosion can be halted and reversed by restoring natural ecosystems such as marsh vegetation and oyster reefs in a strategic (engineered) way. A living shoreline can retain coastal sediments locally and adapt to changes in water levels via natural processes, unlike a seawall or other “hardened shoreline”.
Why Joe Raines Beach and Tyree Canal? Over the past two decades the unvegetated shoreline along and in front of Joe Rains Beach and the beach down to the Tyree Canal have been eroding. The result has been significant loss of beach and vegetation, undermining of the seawall, constant replacement of gravel and repair of landscaping along the seawall. Sand eroding from this section of the beach is then transported and deposited in the Tyree Canal. Infill of the canal opening, which is now almost completely blocked, has impacted navigation of boats in the canal and degraded water quality to the point that clam hatcheries and nurseries have had to relocate or shut down during summer months when the water temperature just gets too hot. In short, the shoreline erosion and infill of the canal has degraded local environmental quality and reduced the utility of the Tyree Canal for clamming operations.
How is this project being implemented? To protect the eroding shoreline and restore navigability and water quality in the canal, two projects are being implemented. The first project is to realign the opening of the canal to where it was excavated prior to the 1960’s (dredging of the red area in the image to the right). This will facilitate a deeper straight line access to the canal and will increase flushing during tidal exchange thereby improving water quality. Dredge spoil from the canal realignment will be distributed in the area of Joe Raines Beach to raise the soil elevation and make the area more conducive for the establishment of saltmarsh species. Once the dredge spoils have been added, the area will be planted with Smooth cordgrass and Saltmeadow cordgrass, which are two native grasses commonly found in the area (planing in green areas in the image to the right). To help protect the vegetation during establishment a temporary breakwater will be constructed and specially engineered sandbags and recycled clambags filled with clamshell will be used to stabilize the sand. There will also be two small oyster reefs created just offshore of the saltmarsh to help reduce wave energy in the future. Planting elevations and the design of the saltmarsh shoreline and oyster reefs are meant to mimic the already existing and well established shoreline to the southeast of the project site. By combining this “living shoreline” with the existing seawall; upland property can be protected on one side while also providing valuable ecosystem services on the waterward side. Dr. Clark is researching the success of each phase of the project and his team hopes this research and demonstration project will guide future efforts to address shoreline erosion and sea-level rise.
Who is involved? There are multiple groups and individuals involved in the project including the City of Cedar Key, Clam Farmers, residents along the canal and shoreline, the University of Florida Extension Service, Florida Sea Grant and the Nature Coast Biological Station, not to mention the many state and federal agencies who have been involved in the permitting process. If you are interested and would like to learn more about the project please contact Dr. Mark Clark firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr. Savanna Barry email@example.com.
Photos: Dr. Mark Clark, UF IFAS Communications