EGLIN AFB — The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance is setting up a competition at Eglin Air Force Base as part the alliance's continuing efforts to reduce shoreline erosion and create wildlife habitat in Choctawhatchee Bay.
The CBA's latest project in that effort is construction of a 1,400-foot reef at Post'l Point, an Eglin AFB recreation area at the edge of Boggy Bayou. Because arranging access to the base for outside groups can be difficult, the CBA is trying to get the various military units and civilian contractors working at Eglin to sign up to build part of the reef.
"Reef building has become a very important part of our mission as the reef breakwaters reduce shoreline erosion and create critical wildlife habitat, especially for young oysters," said Erika Zambello, the alliance's communications and marketing director.
Also according to Zambello, the CBA has already "been working with Eglin to create reef breakwaters in sensitive cultural and environmental areas in Alaqua Bayou as well as Bay Flats." The reefs, built with limestone rock and recycled oyster shells from local restaurants, "have already slowed or even reversed erosion," Zambello said.
In one recent project, volunteers including local high school students, the Northwest Florida State College baseball team, church groups and members of AmeriCorps assisted CBA staff, in partnership with Eglin, in building a 1,700-foot reef in Alaqua Bayou. That reef was constructed with both recycled and fossilized oyster shells.
For its Post'l Point project, the CBA is asking civilian and military groups on Eglin to create teams comprising five to 10 people for reef construction work. The groups are being asked to choose a workday either this month or in September and spend either four hours or eight hours on the project.
As an incentive, the CBA will be offering prizes for the best reef-building team and other achievements, including the fastest reef builders. Prizes include a tour and tasting at Grayton Beach Brewery, a gift certificate for lunch at a local restaurant and CBA gift bags, according to a contest announcement.
The initiative has already attracted a number of teams, according to Zambello. Corvias Military Living, the private contractor that provides housing at Eglin, is already signed up to participate in the project, as is the 823rd Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers. According to Zambello, the Corvias Military Living team is volunteering for eight days of work at Post'l Point.
The CBA, founded in 1996, works to improve swimmable, fishable waterways through education, research, monitoring and restoration.
Eglin civilian or military units interested in participating in the Post'l Point reef-building project can email Rachel Gwin, the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance's restoration coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.