A proposal to create a “living shoreline” at Jacksonville’s zoo could provide welcome information for waterfront communities hoping to deal effectively with climate change and devastating storms.
And for an area such as Northeast Florida, hit hard by Hurricane Irma’s storm surges last year, the project could result in extremely timely knowledge.
It’s only four months, after all, before the state’s hurricane season rears its head again. It’s already expected to be a doozy.
But while the zoo project has drawn rave reviews, including support from past City Councils, it’s been six long years since it was proposed. Never could the city seem to find the $165,000 needed to cover its cost.
This year’s the project’s luck may change as a pot of money from a trust fund made up of fines collected from polluters has now been targeted as a source of cash.
Let’s hope the project can finally move forward as it’s a benefit to the entire community.
The proposal in question is an ingenious undertaking to build a more true-to-nature shoreline to protect the 180 feet of the zoo’s Trout River shoreline from water turbulence that can range from normal wave action to storm surges.
Instead of unsightly concrete bulkheads or rip rap seen along much waterfront property, the Zoo’s new shoreline would consist of the types of things nature itself created to stabilize waterfronts.
The zoo’s waterfront would include offshore “reef balls” that could also serve as home to aquatic life, where new reefs could be started to slow down waves.
Closer to shore, bags of oyster shells would be stacked to resemble an honest-to-goodness natural barrier system, complete with openings to permit manatees and other animals to swim closer to shore.
The shore itself would be stabilized with extra soil and plants becoming places that would further decrease the impact of watery surges while they offer habitat for other creatures.
A boardwalk would give visitors a chance to view the “living shoreline” up close and, hopefully, give them ideas about how waterfront communities, homes and businesses can be protected naturally and not artificially.
The project seems like a definite win-win.
It’s a win for the zoo, which will have a nature shoreline to blend more closely with its progressive and eco-friendly stance.
It’s also a win for the city and its residents, both of which could begin adopting this natural strategy to protect shores.
Everyone involved — the City Council, the Mayor’s Office, Jacksonville’s Public Works Department and anyone else whose support is needed — must get on board and move the project forward.
Six years is too long to wait for an idea whose time, with climate change, is definitely here.
PARKS are UNDER THREAT
The Trump administration’s attack on protected natural areas is continuing with plans to alter dedicated marine monuments to make way for greater commercial fishing and other uses.
This newest broadside comes after the president signed two proclamations in December to roll back the sizes of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Reductions to other land-based monuments are still being considered.
Of great concern environmentally, however, is the presence on that list of three marine monuments, two in the Pacific and one in the Atlantic. All three would either be shrunk or opened to commercial uses that might devastate their delicate ecosystems.
The former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Jane Lubchenco, told the Guardian the trio of monuments is unique in their diversity.
The national monument in Florida’s ocean, the Atlantic, is sensitive, with dense forests of deep-sea corals.
The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument, located off Cape Code, is also an important migratory route for the endangered right whale.
“They are undersea treasures,” she said. “There are plenty of other places in the ocean to fish.”
And fisheries groups that have supported the expansion of fishing rights into protected waters so they can increase their catches may be disingenuous. In the Pacific, for example, tuna catches have doubled recently, evidence that the monuments may be actually protecting key breeding ecosystems.
The fire now being directed at the marine monuments has been launched by the trigger finger of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, a man with a history of opposing legislation designed to safeguard the environment.
It would certainly be a shame if Zinke and the administration had their way regarding these three marine monuments.
They are prized ecosystems.
They are places that deserve our protection.