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Niceville’s Boggy Bayou Headwaters Restoration improves water quality & wildlife habitat

The project was initiated by the City of Niceville through a BP oil spill grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. It addressed issues with water quality and habitat conditions near the Turkey Creek outfall into Boggy Bayou. 
Marsh creation with native plantings will improve shoreline habitat. (City of Niceville)

The headwaters of Boggy Bayou in Niceville have undergone an extensive restoration project this year that is already showing signs of improving water quality and enhancing natural habitat in the area.

The project was initiated by the City of Niceville through a BP oil spill grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. It addressed issues with water quality and habitat conditions near the Turkey Creek outfall into Boggy Bayou. 

  • Permitted through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, construction on the Boggy Bayou Headwaters Restoration project began in February and is now substantially complete.

Improvements included creating a new western marsh peninsula and installing oyster shell breakwaters on the eastern side near the neighboring marina. These structures help protect vegetation in the headwaters and direct creek sediments into the middle of the bayou rather than allowing the shoreline to become increasingly shallow.

Sediment, debris and vegetation near the State Road 20 bridge was also removed to divert and slow the water flow into Boggy Bayou. New channels now direct the flow east and west, allowing the marsh vegetation to absorb nutrients and sediment that had adversely affected water quality. 

  • The slower, more diverse water flow is also improving dissolved oxygen levels throughout the headwaters, creating better natural habitat in areas that were previously stagnant, according to the city.

The project has also initiated a two-year program to remove exotic and nuisance plant species throughout the headwaters region. Native vegetation is being planted along shorelines and the newly created marsh areas instead. This “living shoreline” approach will suppress exotic species from re-emerging and enhance the scenic views.

Coconut fiber logs are in place to protect the new plantings until they establish themselves. A five-year monitoring program will assess conditions and ensure the new ecological systems stabilize as designed.

Two osprey platforms were installed extending into Boggy Bayou from each marsh peninsula. Since completion of the project, residents and visitors have already observed teeming wildlife in the area, including high numbers of osprey, bald eagles, herons, terns and other birds. An increase in redfish and smaller fish has also been seen, likely thanks to the newly planted grasses that attract fingerlings.

According to lifelong resident and kayaker Debra Wolfenden, “I have never seen so many ospreys, bald eagles, terns, blue herons and seagulls all in one place.” She 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.”

The ecological diversity of Boggy Bayou’s headwaters makes it a unique system in Niceville. Once established, the improved habitat and water quality along with the enhanced natural scenery will serve as an environmental treasure for all residents and visitors to enjoy for generations to come.

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