There are 12,000 miles of estuarine shorelines in North Carolina that provide some of the best fish and wildlife habitats in the world. Rising seas, storms and boat wakes are causing these shorelines to erode, threatening these valuable salt marsh and oyster habitats.
For decades, the typical response to control erosion on North Carolina’s estuarine shorelines has been to build bulkheads or place stone riprap along problem areas. This shoreline hardening and loss of vegetated buffers degrade fish and shellfish habitats and reduce areas that absorb stormwater runoff. The consequences of shoreline hardening become more severe as sea levels rise. Additionally, the spread of an invasive wetland plant species, Phragmites australis (common reed), could disrupt the ecology of our fringing shoreline wetlands as it outcompetes natural marsh vegetation.
Living shorelines, a series of techniques that reduce the impact of waves through the use of more natural approaches such as restoring salt marsh and oysters, offer an effective and environmentally friendly solution to shoreline erosion. However, outdated laws and rules, lack of consumer demand and too few specialized contractors have prevented living shorelines from being widely used. We’re changing that.
The federation will work to make living shorelines the go-to erosion control approach in the following ways:
- Promote the use of living shorelines at suitable locations.
- Partner with schools, contractors, businesses, private property owners and federal, state and local governments to build 4,525 linear feet of living shorelines to demonstrate their utility.
- Increase public awareness and work on regulatory reform so that consumer demand creates a vibrant market for contractors to build living shorelines.
- Provide coastwide trainings on living shorelines for contractors, design professionals and state agency staff.
- Promote the adoption of a coordinated coastwide strategy to manage the spread of Phragmites.
Living Shorelines Academy is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is a product of collaboration between Restore America’s Estuaries and the North Carolina Coastal Federation — and their many partners.
The goals of the Living Shorelines Academy are to:
- Increase the abundance of coastal wetlands
- Advance the policy, science and practice of living shorelines
- Enhance collaboration among governmental and private stakeholders
The academy provides many tools:
- Living shorelines training modules that take advantage of proven training and education strategies used by the EPA for years to engage, train and learn from stakeholders
- A peer-reviewed database of white papers and reports about living shorelines
- A database of existing living shorelines projects and a map of highlighted living shorelines across the U.S.
- A directory of living shorelines professionals
- An online forum where the living shorelines community can collaborate by sharing research, ideas and photos
- Living Shoreline Suitability Tool — The Nature Conservancy has partnered with scientists at NOAA’s Beaufort Lab to create this new application by bringing in their research on shorelines in the southern Pamlico, Core and Bogue Sounds and the New River Estuary so that managers and residents can identify where to apply more natural techniques to stabilize their shores. This tool identifies where shoreline wave energy conditions are suitable to ensure successful living shoreline projects.
- “From Gray To Green: Replacing A Bulkhead With A Living Shoreline At A High-Energy Riverine Site” — NOAA Office for Coastal Management
- Green Infrastructure Benefits — NOAA Office for Coastal Management
- A handbook for estuarine property owners in N.C.: How to protect your property from shoreline erosion
- Management Strategies for North Carolina’s Estuarine Shoreline
- Recommendations for Appropriate Shoreline Stabilization Methods for the Different North Carolina Estuarine Shoreline Types
- Presentations from the July 17, 2017 Phragmites working meeting