Skinny water culture donates proceeds of 1st annual SWC Red Drum Classic to CBA

Skinny Water Culture hosted the 1st Annual SWC Red Drum Classic in Destin, FL, donating $600 to the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance’s (CBA) water quality programs.

Operating the tournament from Local Market, the target species was red drum. As they explain in their blog about the event, “The format for the tournament is really fun and easy:” the more spots on the redfish, the more points an angler racks up. All fish caught with a fly earned double points.

Over 40 entrants participated in the tournament, which took place on a chilly November day. Destin guide Captain Shawn Dahnke came in first place, bringing in two fish with 80 points. The team looks forward to bringing the tournament back to Destin in 2019.

“Anglers are critical stakeholders in our Choctawhatchee Bay watershed. They’re on the water every day, and many help us monitor changing conditions as well as build living shorelines,” says Alison McDowell, CBA Director. “Tournaments like this are a great way to have fun and give back, and we so appreciate Skinny Water Culture choosing CBA as their nonprofit beneficiary!”

Skinny Water Culture is an apparel brand with a full line of clothing for the discerning angler, including performance wear and lifestyle pieces. Based in our native Florida, Skinny Water Culture was created with the spirit and the future of the youthful angler in mind. They pride themselves on giving back to the community that has brought so much to their lives by promoting good stewardship within the fishing and coastal communities.

Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance is a non-profit organization striving to enhance swimmable, fishable waterways through monitoring, education, restoration, and research. For over 20 years, CBA has promoted water stewardship within the Choctawhatchee watershed, growing the network of supporters who join in CBA’s mission to provide a future for these precious, natural resources.

Over 120 Volunteers Compete to Finish 1400 Linear Feet of Reef Breakwater in Eglin Competition

The Eglin Natural Resources Branch, known as Jackson Guard, won CBA’s first ever reef building competition at Eglin AFB’s Post’l Point by building 175 linear feet of reef in four hours. The reef breakwater stretches 1,400 linear feet in all, made of over 140 tons of limestone rock pieces. Jackson Guard wins the grand prize: a brewery tour at Grayton Beer Company.

In all, six teams from across Eglin and Hurlburt competed to see who could build the fastest reef sections, including staff from Corvias, the Rapid Engineer Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers, the Hurlburt Honor Guard, Jackson Guard, the Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight, 73rd Special Operations Squadron, the 11th Special Operations Intelligence Squadron, and the 1st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. Corvias donated the most volunteer hours to build 18 reef sections (450 linear feet), in addition to an $8,000 grant to fund the reef project as part of their Giving Back program.

“Our Giving Back projects are part of who we are and what we do here at Corvias,” explains Katie Fuentes, Construction Service Administrator at Corvias, “This year’s partnership with CBA was a great experience allowing our whole team to participate for a memorable team building project. We’re thankful to have organizations in Northwest Florida like CBA who are dedicated to the health of our waterways.”

In addition to the grand prize, individual volunteers won: a growler from Niceville’s 3rd Planet Brewery, a bottle of rosé from 30A Coastal Dunes Wines, a bottle of chardonnay from 30A Coastal Dunes Wines, a gift certificate to Pizza by the Sea, and two CBA prize packs.

“Reef breakwaters and living shorelines protect cultural and natural resources on Eglin Air Force Base,” explains Alison McDowell, Director of the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, “In addition to reducing erosion, the breakwaters provide habitat for fish, oysters, and other native species.”

“We could not have finished this project in two months without the help from Eglin’s Outdoor Recreation’s staff at the Post’l Point Marina,” Rachel Gwin, CBA Restoration Coordinator adds, “They offered the use of their boat and an ATV so we could move the limestone material from the staging area to the reef itself. Huge thank you to them!” She continues: “It was a monumental task to move that much material by hand to finish the reefs in two short months, but the volunteers were amazing to work with and made this project one of my favorites to complete.”

The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance is a non-profit organization striving to enhance swimmable, fishable waterways through monitoring, education, restoration, and research. For over 20 years, CBA has promoted water stewardship within the Choctawhatchee watershed, growing the network of supporters who join in CBA’s mission to provide a future for these precious, natural resources.

For more information, please contact CBA’s Communications and Marketing Coordinator, Erika Zambello, at zambelle@nwfsc.edu.

CBA and Eglin AFB Complete 750 ft Reef Breakwater in Alaqua Bayou

Only July 26th, 2018, CBA staff and AmeriCorps Northwest Florida Environmental Stewards completed a 750 linear foot reef within Eglin AFB’s Alaqua Bayou. Reef breakwaters reduce shoreline erosion, provide habitat for wildlife, and create critical structure for native oysters. The reef is one of three major living shoreline initiatives built on Eglin in 2017 and 2018.

CBA built the reef structures using limestone pieces and recycled oyster shell. The reefs reduce the wave energy hitting the shore, protecting the coastline. Once the reefs are complete, CBA will continue to monitor the sites and plant smooth cordgrass to hold the accumulating sediment in place and create a living shoreline. Living shorelines are natural alternatives to coastline hardening techniques, including rip rap and seawalls. CBA builds living shorelines across the Choctawhatchee Bay, including within public parks and homeowner sites.

“The site was tricky,” Rachel Gwin, CBA Restoration Coordinator, explained, “Because we had to move the materials by boat.” Com-munity volunteers made up a critical part of the team, especially Trey Nick of Nick’s Seafood Restaurant and Jimmy Garibaldi of Garibaldi Inshore Fishing, who donated both their boats and their time to move the limestone rock. The Northwest Florida Water Management District and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission acted as important program sponsors

Three New Monofilament Recycling Bins Installed

by Micaiala Hamner


The Choctawatchee Basin Alliance has joined forces with a local artist and an outdoor advocate to remove harmful plastic fishing line, also known as monofilament, along our coast.

CBA worked with local artist Joan Vienot and Walton Outdoor publisher Lori Ceier to decorate three new PVC pipe receptacles in Thomas Pilcher and Cessna Parks, complete with drawings of a wildlife. The bins are equipped with an opening for monofilament disposal, which is eventually collected by CBA staff and volunteers for recycling.

Vienot and Ceier reminisce about the outflow of debris that riddles beaches, shorelines, and some of the most prominent fishing areas. Not only do the plastic strands entangle marine mammals and aquatic species, but they also are harmful to humans.

Fishing line recycler installed at Thomas Pilcher Park.

“My favorite part was the design, I think we both enjoyed that. The birds we choose are native to the area. There are a cormorant, Great Blue Heron, and Osprey,” explains Ceier.

The monofilament recycling program has grown since its founding during CBA’S Earth Day celebration in 2014. The program strives to reduce the amount of the flexible plastic – mainly used for fishing – and commonly found near the shoreline. Angling line poses a threat to humans, birds, and land mammals, resulting in entanglement that can inevitably lead to death. Unfortunately, fishing line is created from slow degrading plastic that takes over 600 years to break down.

“The decorated recycling bins are an attractive solution to throwing away fishing line,” says Alison McDowell, CBA Director, “They beautify the fishing piers and allow easy recycling of monofilament.”

New Oyster Reef on Eglin Air Force Base

oyster reef, nature, landscape

The air reverberated with clinking noises and the whoosh of oyster shells sliding off giant piles into waiting buckets. Volunteers, Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA) staff and their AmeriCorps team gathered the shells in mesh bags, slowly building another mound of new reef material. As they worked, a truck pulled in with even more shells, collected from nearby restaurants as part of CBA’s shell recycling program. It was reef building time.

Read the rest on Nat Geo Voices!

CBA Staff and NWF AmeriCorps Volunteer for United Day of Caring

Every year, our local United Way organizes Days of Caring to give back to organizations in our community. This year, CBA and the NWF AmeriCorps team came together to remove vegetation and weeds from Harvest House property.

choctawhatchee basin alliance, nature, environment

Harvest House – a nonprofit based in Destin – provides food, clothing, and shelter to those who are less fortunate and at a point of need in their life. In 2016, they assisted over 5,000 people.

For the United Day of Caring event, Harvest House needed help clearing a retention basin on their property. Over the course of four hours, the team successfully cleared over a dozen bags of vegetation (see before and after photos below).

The goals of the Day of Caring events are five-fold:

– Days of Caring demonstrate that volunteer efforts are vital to the well-being of the community.

– Days of Caring provide volunteers with a firsthand look at services provided by local organizations that make an impact on people’s lives.

– Days of Caring showcase our communities’ volunteer efforts and promotes the spirit of caring throughout the year.

– Days of Caring provides many local organizations with much-needed volunteer assistance.

– Days of Caring is a great team building exercise for your family, service organization or employees.

choctawhatchee basin alliance, volunteer, nature

CBA and the AmeriCorps team definitely found meaning in the experience.

Before

nature, day of caring, choctawhatchee basin alliance, volunteer

After

choctawhatchee basin alliance, day of caring, volunteer, environment

3rd Annual South Walton RUN/SUP Race Series

race, paddleboard, nature

The sun rose over Western Lake on Saturday morning, beginning a beautiful day for a paddleboard/run race at Grayton Beach State Park. Over the course of the day, participants from around the area would race in three categories, seeking victory in the competitive division, the recreational course, or the relay.

As the charity beneficiary of the event, CBA staff and volunteers were on-hand to hand out water, work the registration table, point the racers the correct direction, and more.

Photo by Rotorhead Aerial Photography.

“At CBA we’re so lucky to have such dedicated staff and volunteers,” Erika Zambello, Communications Coordinator, says, “They did a great job for us today!”

By choosing Western Lake and the coastal dune ecosystem of Grayton Beach State Park, race organizers showcased the unique environment of the Florida Panhandle, and participants and volunteers enjoyed watching Great Blue Herons, Brown Pelicans, and more fly across the sky throughout the day.

2017 International Coastal Cleanup

At 9 a.m. on Saturday, September 16th, volunteers hit the beach at both Norriego Point and Eagle Creek armed with gloves and trash bags: it was International Coastal Cleanup time!

Every year, volunteers around the world gather on their local beaches and marshes to remove marine debris and other trash. According to the Ocean Conservancy, plastic pollution “has been found in 62% of all sea birds and in 100% of sea turtle species.” Since the International Coastal Cleanup began, “nearly 12 million people and counting have been part of the world’s biggest volunteer effort to protect the ocean.”

Photo by Frances Roy Agency.

“The International Coastal Clean Up raises critical awareness of the impact of pollution in our oceans,” Alison McDowell, Director of the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, explains, “the program is now over 30 years old, and together the participants have removed over 18 million pounds of trash from our shorelines. Here at CBA we work to protect our waterways, and we love sharing our work creating swimmable, fishable waters with the community through this event.”

Volunteers at Eagle Creek.

Over the course of two hours on the warm morning, volunteers scoured the sand and water for trash they could throw away, ending the event with an impressive amount of marine debris that can now be properly disposed of and recycled. Volunteers are true coastal stewards, and we thank them for their efforts!

Extra thank you to the Frances Roy Agency for sending us your photos from Norriego Point!