Snook Islands Natural Area
The Snook Islands project is a great example of various agencies partnering to restore our natural areas, increase our community's resilience, and preserve the quality of life for Palm Beach County residents and businesses. These types of projects raise awareness of the impacts of our natural systems on enhancing our environment and economy.Mayor Shelley Vana
Dredging, filling, and bulkhead installation over the last 100 years has eliminated over 80% of living shorelines in the Lake Worth Lagoon and much of its aquatic habitat. In an effort to enhance the shoreline and restore habitat adjacent to the Lake Worth Golf Course, Palm Beach County initiated the Snook Islands Natural Area project to create four new islands using sand dredged from a nearby island. Project construction resulted in 1.2 miles of living shoreline, including the restoration of 10 acres of mangroves, three acres of marsh, two acres of oyster reef, and nearly 50 acres of seagrass habitat.
The 1998 Lake Worth Lagoon Management Plan identified the Lake Worth Golf Course as a potential site for restoration and enhancement. The golf course was created in 1925 using sand dredged from the lagoon. Over the years, the hole accumulated very fine organic sediments (muck) and created an anoxic environment providing little fish and wildlife habitat value. Along the shoreline, major sections of the seawall had failed, resulting in erosion, while in other sections non-native vegetation had out-competed the native mangrove fringe.
Components of the project included designing a restoration plan, identifying partners, securing funding, obtaining permits, selecting a contractor, implementing the plan, and finally post-construction monitoring.
Planning for the Snook Islands project began in 1998, and regulatory permits were obtained in 2003. Construction began shortly thereafter and was completed in 2005. The public use amenities were added in 2012. With approximately 65% of the lagoon shoreline armored, the county will continue the living shoreline initiative as funding becomes available.
This initiative was funded by Palm Beach County, Florida Inland Navigation District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The City of Lake Worth was also a cooperative partner.
Living shorelines provide an alternative to seawalls and armoring by reducing shoreline erosion. Constructing the offshore mangrove islands and oyster reefs provided an increased buffer against waves and boat wakes precluding the need to construct a new seawall, as well as restoring valuable fish and wildlife habitat. Public use amenities, including a boardwalk, fishing pier and kiosks, educate the public on the importance of living shorelines, while the day-use docks provide boater access to downtown Lake Worth, generating revenue for local businesses.