From – Kimberly Blair o firstname.lastname@example.org o August 26, 2009
The units are the first half of 392 that will create an offshore natural oyster reef breakwater for the island – in the bay west of the Pensacola Bay Bridge, near the Gulf Breeze shoreline. It will be the first of its kind in Florida. “Baby oysters will attach themselves to the structures. They will be the engineers of the reef,” said project manager Heather Reed with Pensacola’s Ecological Consulting Services Inc. “Using a living reef to protect a shoreline has not been done here before.” They have been used successfully in Texas and Louisiana, she said. Hardened structures such as concrete reefs, rocks, mounds of recycled oyster shells and seawalls have been the conventional method of protecting shorelines from erosion, she said. The Deadman’s Island project will be researched for its effectiveness and, if successful, will be used as a model for future living breakwaters.
The Aug. 20 workers were facing a Aug. 24 deadline to install the units. Next week marks the beginning of the threatened Gulf sturgeon migration, a migration of fish similar to salmon that travel from East Bay through Pensacola Bay to spawn between September and May. All major marine construction comes to a halt in area waters at this time, Reed said another impetus for the rush was to get the breakwater in place to slow the rapid erosion of the historically and environmentally significant island. “There’s a strong current running through here,” Reed said on Thursday, pointing to a visible current sweeping sand away from Deadman’s Island as it runs between Escambia and Pensacola bays. “During Claudette, we lost 13 more marine oak trees to erosion on the north end,” she said of the tropical storm that trailed through the area Aug. 17. Marine oaks are typically found on barrier islands and are rare in this area. They are among the few remaining plants that help keep the sand in place and the bay from breaching a 10,000-year-old salt marsh.
The Deadman’s Island Restoration project is a $900,000 plan that consists of the seven tasks: the breakwater, shoreline stabilization, wetland creation to cover and protect protruding historic structures, dune restoration, seagrass restoration, bird habitat restoration and a Gulf Sturgeon monitoring station. The station will collect data from the sturgeon that are tagged in October with monitoring devices. Erosion of the island began in the mid-1940s when urban development in the area boomed, Reed said. But the island’s rich history reaches back to the 1800s or earlier. Large sailing vessels once stopped at Deadman’s Island because ships had access to deep water and could be repaired, Reed said. They island also was used as a yellow fever quarantine station.
To help speed the restoration project along, the City of Gulf Breeze recently OK’d Reed buying $29,687 worth of materials, including turbidity curtains and anchors, needed to complete this phase of the project. The city manages the $300,000 in grant money for the breakwater project. “Deadman’s Island is a unique natural feature,” said City Manager Edwin “Buz” Eddy. “Those types of islands existed up and down coast at one time. This is the last one in our area.” The island, which is actually connected to land on its south end, serves as park, Eddy said. “It’s a property people go to on weekends in the summer for boating and swimming. It’s rare for a city to have a park like that,” he said. Patricia Moreland has lived on the cliff overlooking the island for 53 years. Her five children used the island as their backyard where they would launch boats and swim. She’s watched it shrink over the years. “I’m so glad their doing something about it,” said Moreland, 82, as she walked her dog along the narrow strip of the island. “I was worried it would wash away.”
Volunteer scuba divers are needed to anchor 154 oyster units underwater. Air for tanks will be donated by Dive Pros dive shop. Divers will be working in about four to five feet of fairly clear water. The project is slated for early September. To volunteer, call Heather Reed, Deadman’s Island project manager, at 346-2073. To learn more about Deadman’s Island and the restoration project, visit www.deadmansisland.br33z3.com or www.deadmansisland.br33z3.com.