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Northern Coastal Basins Initiative
Building upon almost 20 years of water quality and habitat restoration and enhancement work in the historic Northern Coastal Basin (New Smyrna Beach to Ponte Vedra), the St. Johns River Water Management District in late 2013 launched a Northern Coastal Basins Initiative and expanded the program’s reach to include coastal estuaries north to the Florida state line.
The district first established a Northern Coastal Basin program in 1995 in response to concerns about the impacts of development on water quality, such as stormwater runoff and failing septic tanks. The district and local, state, regional and federal partners have worked together to address issues such as flooding, water quality (particularly in shellfish harvesting areas) and restoration and protection of coastal saltmarsh habitat resources. Much has been accomplished but more work needs to be done.
Restoration work at Rose Bay included removal of a causeway that helped to reestablish a more natural flow of water.
Today, the Northern Coastal Basins (NCBs) continue to face many challenges, including:
- Loss and degradation of historical coastal habitat
- Continuing water quality degradation
- Impacts of sea level rise and storm events on infrastructure and water resources in developed coastal watersheds
The Northern Coastal Basins Initiative is designed to address these challenges and work with partners and stakeholders to develop and implement projects to enhance and protect water quality and the coastal habitat of the region.
The Initiative’s goals include:
- Ensuring sufficient understanding of the science to protect, restore and maintain water quality and ecological habitat within the NCBs
- Identifying and evaluating issues and working with partners to develop solutions
- Facilitating cooperative implementation of projects to maintain and improve the ecological health of the NCBs
Some of the ongoing work includes:
- Inventorying available water quality, coastal habitat and monitoring data to develop watershed action plans
- Identifying gaps in data and enhancements needed to assess and monitor the watersheds
- Evaluating all hydrologic and hydrodynamic modeling work for the basins
- Identifying and cooperating with partners to implement projects to reduce nutrient, bacteria and sediment loading
- Improving oyster habitat maps for the watershed
- Completing Shoreline Habitat Restoration and Management Plans within the NCBs
- Working with partners to assess coastal resiliency from sea level rise
Cooperatively working with stakeholders will be critical to the success of the Initiative. Local governments, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Northeast Florida Estuarine Restoration Team, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Coastal Program and the National Park Service are a few of the important stakeholder groups working together to protect and restore the NCBs.
Volunteers have been active in making mats from used oyster shells and installing them in coastal waterways to improve habitat for oysters.
Public conservation areas protect much of the shoreline of Pellicer Creek.
Posted on 4-29-2014