Florida Department of Environmental Protection completes initial revitalization of critical salt marsh habitat

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EASTPOINT, Fla. – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is prioritizing coastal resilience by restoring the shoreline at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Together with Duke Energy Florida and nonprofits including Conservation Corps of the Forgotten and Emerald Coasts, DEP is restoring the Cat Point shoreline by working to limit erosion and rehabilitate salt marsh habitat.

Recently, the team completed the first replanting of smooth cordgrass, a critical component of healthy salt marsh.

As a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and associated response activities, salt marsh habitats along Florida’s Panhandle suffered adverse impacts.

The Cat Point Living Shoreline was selected as a Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment Phase III early restoration project.

The project seeks to mitigate the damage by reducing shoreline erosion, providing habitat and creating breakwaters to reduce wave energy. 

The Cat Point project, which began in 2019, includes the expansion of existing breakwater, placing sand fill along eroded areas of the shoreline and creating additional salt marsh habitat utilizing Spartina alterniflora, or smooth cordgrass.

Smooth cordgrass is a perennial grass found in intertidal wetlands and helps foster reef and salt marsh habitat development, as well as control shoreline erosion.

While other facets of the project were successful, the first phase of smooth cordgrass plantings were eliminated following a series of named storms in 2020. 

“Living shorelines are a crucial tool to mitigate shoreline erosion while maintaining habitats and sustaining resilient coasts,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “The headway made on this project, despite the challenges of 2020, is a testament to our valued relationships and the resilience, determination and passion of DEP." 

Duke Energy Florida and DEP’s Northwest Florida Aquatic Preserves donated thousands of smooth cordgrass plants to support the additional restoration efforts.

Many of the plants were harvested at Duke Energy’s Crystal River Mariculture Center, an instrumental research resource that advances environmental stewardship throughout Florida. 

"Duke Energy Florida is proud to work with DEP to help protect Franklin County's shoreline," said Melissa Seixas, Duke Energy Florida state president. "We have a responsibility to preserve our natural resources and reduce our footprint on the environment. It is essential to ensuring the economic vitality of the communities we serve." 

The planting efforts have been spearheaded by staff from DEP’s Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve and Central Panhandle Aquatic Preserves, along with volunteers from Coastal Conservation Association of Florida and Conservation Corps of the Forgotten and Emerald Coasts.

Conservation Corps Director of Restoration Holden Foley said, “Our crew members are very excited to be part of the restoration of the Cat Point Living Shoreline. It is rewarding to see the results and know the impact of our work." 

“Working together is integral to the success of the living shoreline project, and without this collaboration we would not be able to complete this restoration project,” said Alex Reed, director of DEP’s Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection. “Volunteers have been working with staff to get the plants in the ground. We appreciate everyone’s efforts to make this successful.” 

An additional phase of smooth cordgrass planting is planned for 2022. 

Duke Energy Florida

Duke Energy Florida, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, owns a diverse generation mix of natural gas, coal and renewables, providing about 10,200 megawatts of owned electric capacity to approximately 1.9 million customers in a 13,000-square-mile service area in Florida.

Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK), a Fortune 150 company headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., is one of America’s largest energy holding companies. Its electric utilities serve 7.9 million customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, and collectively own 51,000 megawatts of energy capacity. Its natural gas unit serves 1.6 million customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio and Kentucky. The company employs 27,500 people.

Duke Energy is executing an aggressive clean energy strategy to create a smarter energy future for its customers and communities – with goals of at least a 50 percent carbon reduction by 2030 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The company is a top U.S. renewable energy provider, on track to operate or purchase 16,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2025. The company also is investing in major electric grid upgrades and expanded battery storage, and exploring zero-emitting power generation technologies such as hydrogen and advanced nuclear.

Duke Energy was named to Fortune’s 2021 “World’s Most Admired Companies” list and Forbes’ “America’s Best Employers” list. More information about the company is available at duke-energy.com. The Duke Energy News Center contains news releases, fact sheets, photos, videos and other materials. Duke Energy’s illumination features stories about people, innovations, community topics and environmental issues. Follow Duke Energy on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.

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