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NACo
County Solutions and Innovation Blog​​
November 22
Promoting Storm and Flood Resiliency

Restoring Coastal Habitats for Resilient Coastal Economies Web Series – Part 1

Written by Jen Horton, NACo Program Manager.Sanibel Island.jpg
The “Restoring Coastal Habitats for Resilient Coastal Economies” web series provides coastal county leaders and coastal managers with an overview of how environmental restoration initiatives can help strengthen the ongoing vitality of coastal economies. The four-part series will highlight examples from counties that are pursuing coastal restoration projects to: 

  • Promote storm and flood resiliency
  • Protect healthy fisheries
  • Support coastal tourism, and
  • Create and retain coastal jobs.

Each blog post will provide case studies, resources and funding opportunities that relate to each topic area.   

Today’s post explores how environmental restoration efforts can promote storm and flood resiliency

Storms and flooding pose major risks to the economic health of coastal counties nationwide.  Such risks make the pursuit of wetland restoration initiatives more than just an effort in environmental stewardship and preservation, but also an important long-term economic investment.  A healthy coastal habitat provides the first line of defense to combat the effects of flooding, storms and wind. As a result, restoring and strengthening coastal habitats and wetlands presents a key investment to increase a county’s resiliency to storms and other extreme weather events.

Wetlands present a truly efficient means to increase an area’s resiliency, as an acre of wetland can absorb 1-1.5 million gallons of flood water. Knowing this, coastal county leaders and their partners are targeting wetland restoration efforts as a way to increase their overall resiliency to storm and flood events. Both Lee County, Florida and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana provide examples of how coastal counties can pursue wetland restoration efforts in an effort to mitigate storm and flood risks and promote overall coastal resilience. 

The Sanibel Island Clam Bayou Restoration Project

The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, City of Sanibel and Lee County, Florida pursued a restoration effort to promote storm and flood resiliency in the Clam Bayou, a 400-acre mangrove-lined area on Sanibel Island in southwest Florida. Due to recent dam impairments, Clam Bayou experienced the die-off of multiple fish, bird and vegetation habitats, seasonal flooding and water quality issues.  As a way to address these issues, project organizers constructed a new channel to carry water to mitigate future flooding events and restore habitats for fish and native plants. Overall, the restoration effort helped to restore 1.26 acres of mangrove, sea grass and shellfish habits and 0.037 acres of oyster reef. Additionally, project organizers believe that the restoration project increased community awareness of the importance and ecological value of marine habitats.

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This short video depicts volunteer shell bagging efforts in Clam Bayou on Sanibel Island, Florida.

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Lee County staff and local school groups help with fossil shell bagging for oyster reef construction.
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Bayou Segnette Cypress Planting Project
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The Bayou Segnette Waterway in the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park.

In 2009, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana (in partnership with the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and the Entergy Corporation) received a $23,800 Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Grant from the EPA via NACo to re-establish the native cypress trees along the Bayou Segnette Waterway south of New Orleans in the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park. With support from over 150 local and national volunteers, the project involved the strategic planting of more than 3,400 bald cypress trees along 32,000 feet of riparian buffer area. The cypress forest now provides habitat for migratory birds and increased shelter for blue crabs, fish, amphibians and reptiles. The new cypress plantings have also improved water quality by decreasing erosion along the banks and helping to capture sediment and organic material to build new soil. To this end, this restoration project provided Jefferson Parish with a much-needed stronger and more resilient barrier to floods and storms for the future.


Restoration Grant Opportunity

Counties can click here​ to apply for the next round of Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program funding, or contact Jen Horton (jhorton@naco.org​) for more details. 

Stay tuned for the second installment of the “Restoring Coastal Habitats for Resilient Coastal Economies” web series that will overview examples of restoration initiatives to Protect Healthy Fisheries.

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