Sarasota Bay Watch Happenings by Larry Stults

Living Seawalls! What are they and why should we care? There are problems with traditional seawalls and bulkheads along our waterways. For example, their sheer and smooth vertical face is inhospitable to marine life, except for some oysters and barnacles. Additionally, this vertical surface reflects wave energy back out into the waterway causing wave problems for boaters and erosion problems for waterfront land owners. That same reflected wave energy also causes bottom scouring at the foot of the seawall, which stirs up sands and sediments which, in turn, makes the water in the bay murky. This turbidity in the water inhibits the penetration of sunlight to the bottom of the bay, which is crucial for healthy and expansive seagrass beds. When seagrass beds are sunlight limited the vitality and productivity of the bay is reduced.

Living seawalls are designed to solve these problems by creating new marine habitat that has lots of nooks and crannies for diverse of marine life to call home. Living seawall modules such as the one shown here has three distinct zones to promote a variety of habitat for marine life, animals and birds to use: submerged, inter-tidal and upland. Living seawalls are also designed to eliminate bottom scouring and to reduce and attenuate wave energy reflections.

The first living seawall project to use these specially designed modules in the Manatee-Sarasota area is in the City of Palmetto. It comprises over 900 feet of shoreline along the Manatee River. Over 180 modules will be installed soon and will be a trailblazer for future shoreline enhancement along Florida Gulf Coast. As we say at Sarasota Bay Watch – A Healthy Bay Is Everybody’s Business – we all should promote healthier shorelines for a better bay.

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