After much collaboration and teamwork, construction began on a living shoreline project along Moor Shore Road in Kitty Hawk this past December. The project consists of seven vertical sills that act as speed bumps and extend approximately 600 feet along the shore. These sills buffer the shoreline from erosion by decreasing wave energy as it reaches the shore and the road. This coming spring and summer the Coastal Federation and partners will plant thousands of marsh grasses along the shoreline to further protect the shoreline, create habitat and improve water quality.

This project is particularly important due to the road’s use as an emergency route and bypass when US Route 158 cannot be accessed. In addition, the road has intrinsic value as it provides bikers, joggers, kayakers and even marathon participants with beautiful sound side views and water access.

Homeowners and property owners were first to notice the encroaching waves – especially during weather events such as hurricanes – which inspired them to contact local engineers and the federation to see what could be done. They were looking for a solution that would protect the natural shoreline and the road making a living shoreline the clear choice for this project.

When creating a living shoreline there are a suite of options that can be considered. Two alternative designs were considered for the Moor Shore Road project including an oyster sill and a rock sill. Oysters were ruled out because it is too fresh for their persistence and success and rock sill was ruled out because of the footprint (10-13 feet wide) it would need could have impacted nearby underwater grass beds.

Instead, a vertical sill 18 inches wide and sticking up about 6-12 inches above the water, was chosen. The sill is low profile to allow large waves to break over top of it and every 75-100 feet there is an opening to allow for water circulation and fish passage. Access to the water for recreational purposes will be maintained. Additionally, the grass plantings will serve as a volunteer and community building opportunity for local residents and visitors. These marsh grasses will be planted this spring to create wetland habitat. The site will demonstrate educational value at its completion with signage and could serve as a location for educational programs.

This project is an example of successful collaboration between a variety of partners. Six landowners and four funding agencies including the Town of Kitty Hawk, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Dare County Soil and Water, North Carolina Department of Transportation (NC DOT) and Coastal Surveying and Engineering have partnered in the implementation of the Moor Shore Road project, with the federation acting as a project facilitator. The Town of Kitty Hawk and NC DOT selected Hatchell Construction in collaboration with Millstone Marine to construct the project.

This project is also unique in that it is NC DOT’s first documented living shoreline project in the state. Typically, hardened structures that either fail in protecting the shoreline or potentially cause more erosion over time are selected. As Mayor Gary Perry of Kitty Hawk has stated, “This project is a long time in the making and something that makes the community very proud.”

For more information on living shorelines and the federation’s other existing projects, click here.

Click here for a video of the project.