Riverside Conservancy has grant to restore Indian River shorelines

Researchers have linked the disappearance of seagrass in Florida (thought to be behind this winter’s explosion of manatee deaths in the Indian River Lagoon) to a decades-long decline in water quality. But those working to restore the estuary in Volusia County hope living shorelines can help reverse the trend.

“We want to be at the cutting edge of what’s going on in shoreline restoration,” said Greg Wilson, chief scientific officer for the Edgewater-based Riverside Conservancy.

Living shorelines are designed to replicate the natural layout of an estuary, before homes were built and seawalls routinely installed. Walking from the backyard to the Indian River Lagoon, homeowners would first encounter a row of mangroves, then an intertidal zone where clams are submerged, and an oyster reef beyond that breaks the wave action.

It all pays off, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — improving water quality, limiting erosion, protecting against flooding, providing increased habitat for fisheries, sequestering carbon and supporting biodiversity.

“What the homeowner I think will notice more than anything is a return of fish to the area,” said Kelli McGee, the conservancy’s executive director.

Red mangrove plants along the shoreline in Edgewater, Friday, April 9, 2021.

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Riverside Conservancy is trying to make it easy for homeowners with waterfront property to do their part, tapping into a St. Johns River Water Management District grant to restore a quarter mile of shoreline on the Indian River Lagoon this year.

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