Many hands make light work is the adage we live by at the CBA. You, friends, go above and beyond the call of duty to assist in every aspect of our organization. Citizen Scientists, nursery tenders, terrapin surveyors, and restoration participants, pat yourselves on the back for your hard work this past year! We send a shout-out to some extra special friends of the CBA Carah, Anthony, and Lincoln! Carah Lytle maintained the plant nurseries in the dead of summer when AmeriCorps completed their year. Anthony and Lincoln from the Seaside School visited our headquarters several times to split our nursery plants in preparation for shoreline restoration. A huge thank you goes out to Food for Thought, Newman-Dailey Resort Properties, Emerald Coast Gator Club, Shunk Gulley staff, and Whole Foods Market staff for extending their helping hands to enhance shoreline resilience. From reef building to planting our living shorelines, your groups were assets to our team!
Water Quality Research Support
Our long-standing partnership with UF IFAS Florida LakeWatch allows us to manage over 132 water quality sites. UF IFAS Florida LakeWatch provides the supplies for water quality samples and additionally analyzes our samples in their laboratories. Our staff of wetland ecology specialists, ecology technicians, and citizen scientists team up to monitor every site monthly. Okaloosa County, Walton County, and the City of Destin support the overhead costs for this program. Additionally, continual support comes from Destin Water Users Inc., South Walton Utility Co. Inc., Regional Utilities, and Barge Design Solution, Inc. as Adopt-A-Waterway members of CBA. We are so thankful to have the support of our counties, municipalities, and sponsors that encircle the Choctawhatchee Bay. We can all agree that healthy local waterways are an integral part of our way of life!
Many companies, groups, and organizations have joined forces with the CBA to accomplish an overall mission of a healthy watershed. First, we’d like to recognize AmeriCorps NWF Environmental Stewards for their ongoing partnership in creating an unstoppable team dynamic. The 2020-2021 AmeriCorps Team transformed our Grasses in Classes into a virtual classroom successfully implemented in 17 schools. The CBA partners with Virginia Tech, Jackson Guard, and USFWS, with the help of AmeriCorps NWF Environmental Stewards, to participate in additional ecological services in different ecosystems around our watershed. Troy University‘s Dr. Brian Helmes, Jonathan Miller, and Hannah Adkins hosted CBA staff and AmeriCorps members in assisting their freshwater mussel study; we will implement this knowledge in a new freshwater curriculum.
We want to thank our educators for their partnership in our education programs from elementary through high school. Additionally, several local libraries and summer programs hosted our Shelves to Shores program, fostering stewardship throughout the year.
The UF IFAS Walton and Okaloosa County Extension Officers lent us their kayaks for monitoring purposes along the Choctawhatchee River, led the annual terrapin surveys, and included the CBA in their innovative techniques in oyster reef prism construction. Their guidance in many uncharted areas of expertise assists CBA in expanding our program areas to reach our goals.
Island Coastal Outfitters and the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance partnered together for the 1% for the Planet initiative, where Island Coastal Outfitters donates one percent of profits to the CBA and its programs. Additionally, Pedego Electric Bike 30A donates 5% of every bike rental to the CBA, and 30A Coastal Dunes Wine Company donates proceeds to the Dunes in School Education program. This year, we received gifts from Shoreline Church’s Fly Fishing Film Tour, Skinny Water Culture‘s Fishing Tournament, and the oyster shell personalization fundraiser hosted by Shunk Gulley and 30A Coastal Dunes Wine Company.
Monofilament bins located at Okaloosa Fishing Pier and local boat ramps around the bay prevent fishing lines from entering our waterbody. Anglers can recycle the fishing line in our bins or drop it off when they visit Emerald Coast Bait and Tackle. We send the monofilament to Berkley Conservation Institute, where it’s given a second life as tackle boxes.
Our living shoreline restorations would not be possible without the help from our restaurant partners. Our current restaurants are Shunk Gulley, ACME Oyster House, O’Quigleys Seafood Steamer & Oyster Bar, The Back Porch, Boathouse Oyster Bar, Brotula’s Seafood House & Steamer, Rick’s on the Island, AJ’s Oyster Shanty, and AJ’s on the Bayou. The City of Fort Walton Beach partnered with CBA allowing our staff and AmeriCorps partners to utilize a portion of their city yard as a shell dumpsite.
Some waterway heroes assist the CBA in unique ways. We want to thank Fred Gannon State Park for opening their pavilions to the CBA for hosting our watershed Day with the new 2021-2022 AmeriCorps NWF Environmental Steward Some waterway heroes assist the CBA in unique ways. We want to thank Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park for opening their pavilions to the CBA for hosting our watershed Day with the new 2021-2022 AmeriCorps NWF Environmental Steward members. Frances Roy Agency and Dr. David Schjott of NWFSC led the CBA staff in professional development workshops. Sean Murphy of Sean Murphy Photography not only captures the essence of our organization through his photos but also cares for our alligator snapping turtle animal ambassadors, Mac and Temmi. Auer Marine is a tremendous help in maintaining our fleet of boats used daily for water quality monitoring. Lastly, Walton County Public Works organized a staging location at the Choctaw Beach boat ramp for our reef series at Hammock Point.
Northwest Florida Water Management District and the FWC directly support living shoreline projects. The J.W. Couch Foundation and the Dugas Family Foundation committed support for the next three years to the CBA. We also thank Northwest Florida Impact 100 Inc. for their contributions that started a new seagrass restoration program and improved our oyster shell recycling program. St. Joe’s Community Foundation committed funds to support our ongoing partnership with AmeriCorps, without which we would not have the ability to accomplish our mission. The Gulf Power Foundation invested in future waterways stewards by contributing funds toward our education programs. Their commitment allows for more staff, more schools in our current programs, an expanded education curriculum for upper watershed communities, a water quality dashboard, more monitoring sites, greater reach for our oyster recycling program, and the ability to restore more habitat.