Living shoreline is being made at the St. James Water Park

Published: Jul. 6, 2015 at 12:17 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 10, 2015 at 12:17 PM EDT
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Living Shoreline at Carolina Beach State Park. (Source: WECT)
Living Shoreline at Carolina Beach State Park. (Source: WECT)

ST. JAMES, NC (WECT) - The Oyster Reef Project picks up again this week at the St. James Waterway Park to help create a living shoreline. The goal of this eight-year project is to keep the Waterway Park from eroding.

Troy Alphin, one of the senior research associates on the project, said it has been a collaborative effort of many different groups over the years.

Some of those partnerships include the NC Coastal Federation, NC Division of Marine Fisheries, Division of Coastal Management, UNCW, and the St. James Community.

Thursday, 500 bags stuffed full of recycled oysters from Shallotte will be stacked along the St. James Waterway Park.

Alphin said it takes months of preparation to get these oyster reefs bagged and set in place, but the benefit they provide for the environment is worth it.

"The oyster reefs provide habitat for juvenile fish, crabs and shrimp," Alphin explained. "They slow down the flow of water, they chew up the energy from boat wakes and other storm surges, and they protect the marsh behind the oyster reefs so it can develop."

Living shorelines is not the only way to prevent erosion along our shorelines.

You may have seen retaining walls, bulkheads or other man-made structures in the waterways. While they do provide a barrier to the shoreline, many argue the living shorelines provide a much better alternative.

Alphin said the living shorelines are going to respond to the environment and will continue to develop over time; whereas man-made structures once they are in place they're there until they fail.

Stacking the reefs is only part of the project; the second half of the work is done by UNCW students collecting data of the existing shoreline.

Alphin said this research is used to see how these oyster reefs are sizing up to other living shorelines in our area.

"They monitor them once they are created and they report back to both us and community letting everyone know what's going on, how the reefs are developing how the area is functioning," Alphin explained. "The data from this site is combined with data from Pender County, around Southport we have a number of these projects and so we compare all of them to see how the living shoreline is doing over time."

Half of the living shoreline is going into place this Thursday at 8:45 at the St. James Waterway Park. The other half of the 50 foot shorelines will take place July 29 starting at 9:30 a.m.

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