Habitat Restoration

After 10 years of developing and standardizing novel engineering and scientific methods to assess and monitor the health of the Indian River Lagoon (IRL), ORCA is now entering the realm of habitat restoration and shoreline reclamation. ORCA is in a unique position to manage restoration projects in the IRL. We have collected cutting-edge data, including both the Kilroy and FAST programs, and mapped areas that are amenable to restoration. We believe we have done our due diligence in this regard and are now prepared to utilize our data in an effort to reclaim the lagoon.

The focus of ORCA’s habitat restoration program is the construction of living shorelines. Living shorelines are shoreline protection projects that provide habitat for plants and animals, stabilize shorelines and improve water quality. Living shorelines usually include the construction of a hard structure or breakwater made from rock or bagged shell and the planting of native vegetation along intertidal shorelines. The breakwaters play an important role in living shorelines as they help with erosional issues, slow the intrusion of muck and stormwater and provide essential hard surface for a variety of sheltered and attached organisms. The inclusion of needed habitat as part of IRL restoration is well documented.

As part of our restoration efforts, ORCA has developed a restoration nursery at our facility along the Fort Pierce Inlet. Highlighting an emphasis on IRL biodiversity, efforts are being made to propagate native vegetation that is less abundant in the IRL as compared to years past. Entering into its second year, the nursery includes 14 native coastal species and nearly 1,500 individual plants.

The continued growth of our living shorelines program is a top priority for ORCA. For the last decade ORCA has collected some of the most in-depth and usable data on the IRL. It has been our vision since our inception to find ways to use this information to help the Lagoon moving forward. Our living shoreline program is the culmination of this vision. Habitat restoration is a perfect fit for the ORCA team and we have planned our future to include this entity as a major part of our future work.

ORCA has a strong commitment to education and fervent belief that science is best learned by doing. To learn more about the education component of our habitat restoration work, visit our Living Lagoon page.


The Living Lagoon is a community-based collaboration between ORCA, the Indian River Land Trust (IRLT) and the School District of Indian River County in which 10 sites along the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) in Indian River County (IRC) will be restored with living shorelines. Restoration sites were identified by the IRLT as suffering from one of three negative influences: culvert releases, low lying areas that drain storm water from residential areas, and sites suffering from shoreline erosion (from large boat wakes). Each permitted site will have living shorelines constructed, consisting of intertidal breakwaters (made of coquina and bagged fossilized shell) and shoreline plantings.

Vegetation for all Living Lagoon plantings is being grown at four IRC schools where schoolyard nurseries have been set up and student participants are taking responsibility for the growth and propagation of all plants. Learn more about the education component of our The Living Lagoon Program.

The Living Lagoon will provide valuable intertidal habitat for protected and endangered IRL species, nutrient and sediment removal, water quality improvement, carbon sequestration, wave attenuation, shoreline stabilization and storm protection; wetlands vegetation planted during this program will provide species habitat and nitrogen removal. We believe that building breakwaters and marshes at low lying drainage areas will slow the intrusion of muck and stormwater into the IRL.

Funding for the Living Lagoon Program was graciously provided by the following donors:

Indian River Impact 100

Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program

Schmidt Family Foundation

Indian River County Children's Services Advisory Committee (CSAC)

Bernard Egan Foundation

West Marine BlueFuture®

Living Lagoon Program Partners

Indian River County Children’s Services Advisory Committee






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