State transportation departments often focus solely on traditional shoreline stabilization methods that involve hardened infrastructure, such as concrete and rocks. But now, more agencies recognize the untapped value of nature-based solutions to achieve their engineering goals.
WSP is currently working on a large-scale coastal restoration project in Apalachicola Bay, located in Franklin County, Florida. The Franklin-98 project will create 20 acres of oyster reefs and 30 acres of saltmarshes to repair areas of shoreline along Highway 98 damaged by erosion. The roadway is a critical piece of infrastructure connecting the region and serves as a designated hurricane evacuation route.
The feasibility study was completed Spring 2020, and WSP is currently working on the engineering and design plan, targeting completion by the fall. Construction will begin in January 2022 and is scheduled to conclude by January 2023.
The project will transform what is a heavily eroded shoreline vulnerable to storms into a stable, lush mosaic of habitats that provides important ecological enhancement to the bay and nearby communities.
Oysters and other filter feeders that colonize the reefs help to clean the water and serve as food sources for other marine organisms, while the marshes provide important habitat for birds, crabs, fish and other species. In turn, the ecological restoration supports the fisheries production, recreational opportunities and improved water quality.
Throughout the design process, WSP worked to avoid impacts to existing submerged seagrass communities within the project area. This required a mapping of the seagrasses and creation of safe buffers around every seagrass bed. To ensure the proposed reefs calm the waves enough to support the planted marshes, the team used three-dimensional coastal modeling to simulate the effects the reefs will have in attenuating wave energy.
Another critical component of the Franklin-98 project has been the need to obtain strong community support and written permission from each affected riparian landowner. Therefore, WSP is working closely witch the Apalachee Regional Planning Council to develop and implement a stakeholder engagement program featuring public workshop webinars, a social media campaign, and Franklin-98 branded T-shirts highlighting the project’s slogan: “Protecting community, conserving the coast.”