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Breakwater giving birds a break | Community Spirit

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Breakwater giving birds a break
Breakwater giving birds a break

Riverview, Florida -- The sun is out and the water is smooth as Audubon of Florida's Ann Paul guides us to a special place.

"We're headed out to the Alafia Bank Bird Sanctuary in eastern Hillsborough Bay," said Paul while steering her small boat.

The small spoil island doesn't look like much, but each year some 10,000 pairs of birds nest there, including imperiled species like American Oystercatchers and Roseate Spoonbills.

"This is one of the most important spots for wildlife in the state of Florida-actually the United States of America," said Paul.

But this refuge for birds needs some saving itself. Wave action from passing ships and freighters is causing erosion. The shoreline is washing away and trees are falling.

"You can see a bunch of dead trees," Paul points out. "Well, we had birds nesting in those trees last spring."

And that's where some giant, concrete pyramids come in. They're about five feet tall and weigh 8,100 pounds. Over the past month, a crane has placed about 320 of them in shallow water near the island. They're called Wave Attenuation Devices or WADS. The structures, which have holes in the sides and top, are especially engineered to calm waves.

"We're basically killing that wave energy before it reaches the shore and that's the whole objective," said Tom Brown of Living Shoreline Solutions, the company building the breakwater.

Audubon of Florida worked to make this island rescue effort take flight. The group spent five years engineering the project, getting permits and securing the funding. Grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Mosaic Fertilizer, which owns the land, paid for the $250,000 project.

And now everyone involved hopes this new breakwater gives this island and all the birds there a break.

"To see this coming together is cause for dancing in the streets," said Paul.

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