NICEVILLE, Fla. — The City of Niceville has announced that it is nearing completion of a restoration project to address water quality concerns and habitat conditions near the Turkey Creek outfall.
The Boggy Bayou Headwaters Restoration project includes the formation of a new western marsh peninsula and the installation of an eastern oyster shell breakwater near the neighboring marina to protect the vegetative communities in the headwaters and to direct any creek sediments into the middle of the bayou, the city said in an announcement.
The project began in February.
According to the city, the accretion of sediment has historically shallowed the waterfront, making the nearby Valparaiso boat ramp unusable.
“Although upstream sediment controls have significantly reduced this accretion over the past two decades, accumulated sediment, debris, and vegetation was removed near the S.R. 20 bridge to divert flows and slow the water discharging into the bayou,” the city said.
“Additional flow paths have been opened to the east and west to diversify and slow the flows, allowing sediment and nutrients adversely affecting water quality to be absorbed by the marsh vegetation within the headwaters.”
These flow diversion efforts are also meant to improve dissolved oxygen levels throughout the headwaters, enhancing natural habitat that will substantially improve water quality in previously stagnant areas.
A two-year program to remove exotic and nuisance species throughout this region continues and will be significantly enhanced through “living shorelines.” These include the planting of native species along the shorelines and newly constructed marsh areas to suppress the re-emergence of exotic vegetation and to improve the public viewshed of this scenic landscape.
Following native plantings on the newly formed western peninsula and along the Kiwanis Park shoreline, construction will be complete, the city said. Coconut-fiber coir logs have been installed to protect the plantings, and these coir logs will naturally dissolve over time.
Public awareness is vital to ensuring the preservation of these improvements until the system has a chance to stabilize. A subsequent five-year monitoring program is scheduled to monitor the conditions and ensure the ecological systems can stabilize and perform as designed.
Two osprey platforms have been installed at the terminus of each peninsula, extending into Boggy Bayou.
Since the completion of the improvements, residents, commercial operators, kayakers, and others based or visiting the area have shared observations of teeming wildlife.
Local resident Debra Wolfenden frequently kayaks in the headwaters and said, “I have never seen so many ospreys, bald eagles, terns, blue herons, and seagulls all in one place.”
Neighboring businesses and residents have observed an increase in redfish and smaller juvenile fish. Wolfenden added, “I love that grasses were planted to attract the fingerlings; this will be an awesome estuary for them. I am so excited that some positive work is being done to save our beautiful Boggy Bayou and its health. This is why we live in and love this area so much—we have a city that cares about the future of our environment for generations to come.”
“The headwaters area of Boggy Bayou is a unique ecological system, and once established, the improved wildlife habitat and water quality, along with enhanced scenery, will serve as a long-term environmental jewel for all residents and visitors of Niceville to enjoy,” the city said.
Funding for the project comes from a BP oil spill-related grant issued by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permitted the project.