The Oyster Reef Habitat Restoration project is one of 10 Florida Gulf Restoration projects that will be paid for with $34.3 million from the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund.
By CHRIS OLWELL | News Herald Writer
| PANAMA CITY — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will receive nearly $2 million to restore oyster habitats in St. Andrew Bay from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).
The Oyster Reef Habitat Restoration project is one of 10 Florida Gulf Restoration projects that will be paid for with $34.3 million from the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund. The NFWF announced the projects Monday.
The oyster bed restoration will improve water quality and help restore seagrass, which will benefit a variety of plant and animal species in the bay, said Jim Muller, Bay County's RESTORE Act coordinator. "Seagrass and oysters serve as a nursery for a lot of species," Muller said. The NFWF said the restoration of one and a quarter miles of oyster habitats in West Bay will improve the water quality by reducing sediments, which will improve fisheries and reduce turbidity and wave action.
The project is expected to expand over 200 acres of seagrass beds. Grey snapper, spotted sea trout, mullet, grouper, red drum, flounder, shrimp, blue crab and scallops are among the species NFWF expects to benefit from the project.
Muller said the habitat was not directly affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but that's not required of projects that receive the grants. The Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund was established in 2013 with money paid by BP and Transocean to settle criminal charges stemming from the spill.