OCEAN — Storm surge caused by Hurricane Matthew in October caused widespread destruction of bulkheads and other supposedly stabilized shorelines along coastal creeks, river and sounds throughout coastal North Carolina.

“Matthew proved that building seawalls and other hard erosion control structures to protect waterfront property provides a false sense of security for waterfront property owners,” said Todd Miller, executive director of the North Carolina Coastal Federation. “Many homeowners face costly repairs, and they keep asking if there’s a better way to protect their properties from erosion.”

To help waterfront property owners find that solution, the federation has just launched Living Shorelines Academy, a national resource that promotes erosion control practices that protect both property and the environment. The website was developed in partnership with Restore America’s Estuaries, with financial support from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Living Shorelines Academy is a free online resource for property owners, real estate agents, marine contractors, environmental agencies, engineers and other waterfront stakeholders who seek to find the most cost-effective way to protect estuarine shorelines from erosion.

Living shorelines maintain and create salt marsh habitats that enhance the health of estuaries and their productivity for fish and wildlife. In many places, living shorelines are more effective than bulkheads because they use natural materials such as marsh grasses and oysters to control erosion. In places where plants alone won’t stop erosion, some structures may be incorporated in the project using oyster shells, rocks or wood to prevent wave energy from eroding the shoreline.

Bulkheads, on the other hand, reflect wave energy along the shoreline. This can lead to increased erosion over time and result in a loss of sand along shorelines and productive fish habitat. When a big storm strikes, many bulkheads and hard erosion control structures may be damaged or destroyed.

“Waterfront property owners will create a huge market demand for living shorelines once they more fully appreciate just how well they work to control erosion,” Miller said. “The Academy educates people to make responsible decisions about how to manage shoreline erosion and be good stewards of our estuarine ecosystems.”

The Academy website features training modules that serve as introductory courses for those interested in learning more about living shorelines. The modules for property owners provide information for those who want to learn more about their options for controlling shoreline erosion. The modules for consultants, contractors and other professionals offer basic instruction on the design and construction of living shorelines.

The website also includes a map of highlighted projects from around the country, a comprehensive list of existing living shorelines databases, a nationwide directory of professionals and an interactive forum for the living shorelines community, including property owners, to share information and learn from others.

On the resources section of the website, visitors can check out the latest living shorelines research. This section includes peer-reviewed literature, videos, online databases and publications developed at state, national and international levels. People can also submit information to the project directory and professional directory.

Visit livingshorelinesacademy.org to learn more. For more information about this new resource, please contact Tracy Skrabal at (910) 231-6601.