By Brandy Volovecky
Two speakers talked to the Escambia County RESTORE Act Advisory Committee about ways to slow and prevent shoreline erosion and decrease the damaging effects of storm water at its seventh meeting yesterday. This meeting marked the first of the environmentally-focused presentations to the group.
Rick Harter, project manager in port and coastal engineering at Atkins, suggested the implementation and growth of living shorelines as the most effective and low-maintenance solution to eroding shorelines. Living shorelines use natural habitat elements to protect against erosion and stabilize sediment. Whereas hardened structures require constant maintenance, Harter said living shorelines are self-maintaining and resilient.
Skeet Lores, retired marine scientist and former researcher for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Gulf Ecology Division, spoke to the committee about the effects of storm water and fisheries restoration. Lores said storm water, caused by impervious surfaces, contains harmful sediment, pesticides, heavy metals, hydrocarbons, solid waste and other environmental contaminants.
“Water quality issues affect all of us,” he said. “They affect the eco system, productivity, fisheries. They affect the economic value of the water shed and the property around the water shed and they have health effects”
Lores said potential solutions are construction site containment, storm water retention ponds and reducing impervious surfaces. Living shorelines, he said, are also very effective at neutralizing the effects of storm water on the environment while creating food and habitats for wildlife.
Both speakers pointed to Project GreenShores in downtown Pensacola as a successful habitat restoration and shore stabilization project that utilizes living shorelines. Harter said living shorelines are not a “one-size-fits-all solution,” but are quickly gaining mainstream and scientific popularity for their success.
“They have an engineering benefit, an economic benefit, a social benefit, an environmental benefit,” he said. “That’s really the key here.”
Harter suggested using grants and offering materials to private owners to encourage them to build living shoreline projects on their own.
The RAAC has been charged with reviewing projects, soliciting public input and making recommendations to the Escambia County Board of Commissioners for the use of any funds received as a result of the RESTORE Act.
The group meets on the first and third Monday of every month. Its next meeting will be held August 5 at 4 p.m. at 221 Palafox Place in the BCC meeting room.