ORCA announces Living Shorelines program


Jim Lappert, Retta Rohm, and Jessica Espinosa from ORCA, Dave Heuburger from the Indian River Land Trust, Judy Orcott, a community volunteer, Charlie Pope from Vero Beach Youth Sailing, who helped ORCA to secure the holding area, and Former Mayor of Vero, Richard Winger.

Living shorelines are shoreline protection projects that provide habitat for plants and animals. They also stabilize shorelines and improve water quality. The Ocean Research & Conservation Association’s (ORCA) Living Lagoon Program is being developed in partnership with the Indian River Land Trust (IRLT).The program, in addition to helping clean up the lagoon, introduces local students to the world of living shorelines through hands-on activities and a school nursery program. Students involved in the program are growing native vegetation throughout the school year to be planted along impaired shorelines of the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) owned by the IRLT. The mission of the Living Lagoon Program is to develop a community of Indian River County students dedicated to improved stewardship of our water-based life support systems.

Scientists and volunteers met recently at the staging area where materials that will be used to make the breakwaters are being stored. The breakwaters will be used protect the plants from big waves and allow them to grow and spread. The breakwaters will be made up of a combination of the coquina rock (broken down into volleyball sized pieces) and fossilized shell which will be bagged and placed behind the coquina. The idea is that the coquina rocks will block most of the wave action from things such as boat wakes and the bagged shell will be protected behind the coquina. This will also allow for critters such as oysters to settle on the bagged shell.

This collaborative program is supported by Indian River Impact 100, Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program, Schmidt Family Founding, Bernard A. Egan Foundation, Indian River County Children’s Services Advisory Committee, West Marine BlueFuture® and many local companies and organizations.

Four partner schools in Indian River County, FL were chosen to participate in the first year of the program during the 2017-2018 school year.  The schools include Osceola Magnet School, Sebastian Elementary School, Sebastian River High School and Vero Beach High School. The program includes the design and construction of school nurseries, the propagation and care of important IRL vegetation, monthly visits from ORCA scientists and educators focused on IRL topics, and student/community participation in living shoreline plantings/monitoring along the IRL.

If members of the community would like to support this along with other projects being conducted by ORCA there has never been a better time to help. The Schooner Foundation is providing a $300,000 challenge grant for the organization. That means your donation will be will matched dollar-for-dollar now through July 31, 2018.  Individuals wanting to make a donation to help support ORCA’s efforts can do so easily by logging onto TeamORCA.org and clicking the “Donation” button on the home page. Those wanting to make a donation by phone can call, 772.467.1600 or individuals can mail a check to ORCA, 1420 Seaway Dr., Fort Pierce, FL, 34949.


  1. Thank you for the great exposure of a needed program to help preserve our precious lagoon.

  2. Great article Milt. I visited the site yesterday with 2 other CCA members. We along with the local rotary clubs will be transporting 46 skids of oysters matts to the site next week for this project .
    I hope that the community sees the importance of this and helps with funding toward that generous grant that is put up till June 18.

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