After being named one of IMPACT100’s five grant recipients earlier this month, the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance is gearing up to take large strides in a oyster restoration program.

SANTA ROSA BEACH — An environmental group hopes a more than $100,000 grant will ignite a project to purify Choctawhatchee Bay.


After being named one of IMPACT100’s five grant recipients earlier this month, the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance is gearing up to take large strides in an oyster restoration program that began in 2007, Director Alison McDowell said.


“I was so excited and so relieved,” she said of receiving the award. “We do a lot with a little here at CBA, and so we’ve been really making due and limping along.”


According to McDowell, the group is completely funded by grants and other donations. With the IMPACT 100 contribution, the CBA will buy a new truck, van and “specially outfitted” trailer to improve productivity.


“We’re kind of like a nature-based construction company,” she said. “We have to have the equipment in order to get out there and do our job."


With the bay’s water quality declining, McDowell said a healthy oyster population is essential to getting it back on track.


She added that the group recycles old oyster shells; donated by local restaurants, to build habitats for local populations to thrive.


“One adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day,” she said. “Our water quality is threatened ... (and) we have to be able to be resilient. ... Having a thriving oyster population and thriving seagrass population are ... the building blocks of a healthy bay.”


Looking ahead, she said the additional resources will help the group recycle more shells, inching toward an ecosystem that can naturally filter the bay for future generations.


“It’s 27 miles from one end of the bay to the other and we need to be able to travel to get to our locations,” she said. “We have a lot of oysters floating around, looking for a place to settle. We just need to provide good places for them to settle.”