Living shoreline with oyster beds
A living shoreline with oyster beds. Courtesy NOAA

The California Coastal Commission has voted unanimously to allow for the Port of San Diego to pilot a native oyster living shoreline adjacent to the Chula Vista Wildlife Refuge in south San Diego Bay.

The objective of the living shoreline, the first of its kind in San Diego Bay, is to increase biodiversity and protect the shoreline from future sea level rise

“We are grateful to the California Coastal Commission for its support of this important project that will strengthen coastal resiliency along our waterfront while also helping to protect the diverse ecosystems in and around San Diego Bay,” said Michael Zucchet, board chair of the Port of San Diego.

“The Port of San Diego is proactively and continuously planning for and implementing various strategies to reduce the impacts of future sea level rise. The living shoreline project is one of them and is among the many ways we are working to ensure San Diego Bay remains a vibrant resource for generations to come,” Zucchet added.

Living shorelines rely on natural elements, such as plants or oysters, for stabilization instead of sea walls. They can naturally adapt and grow over time.

“Living shorelines are rapidly becoming recognized as a cost-effective way to increase shoreline resilience to climate change while supporting local biodiversity, said Sam Schuchat, executive officer of the California State Conservancy, which is partnering with the port on the project. “San Diego Bay is one of California’s most iconic waterfronts; this project will help protect the bay and its inhabitants, and prepare it for the future.”

Installation of the native oyster living shoreline could begin as early as this spring with conservationists placing 360 “reef balls” made of concrete mixed with local sand to establish the oyster reefs.

The project’s objective is to demonstrate the ability to attract and establish native oyster populations that create structurally complex “reef” habitats for fish, birds, invertebrates, and aquatic plants.

The project is also expected to improve local water quality as the oysters filter the water.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.