Thursday, November 17, 2005

Better to Bend Like the Reed Than Break Like the Stone

As the field of shoreline protection matures, a fortunate confluence is occurring. It's beginning to look like solutions that are better for the Bay and its wildlife are also better at keeping land from washing into the drink. This month's edition of the Bay Journal discusses the growing popularity of "living shorelines," an approach that "uses strategically placed plants, stone and sand to deflect wave action, conserve soil and simultaneously provide critical shoreline habitat."

Anne Arundel Soil Conservation District Manager Jeff Opel relayed a tale of how different shoreline types weathered Isabel:

"“We flew most of the county shoreline by helicopter shortly before the hurricane hit, and we flew it again about 90 days later. There was really significant damage along walls and bulkheads, and along riprap,"” Opel said. "“But when we looked at where we'’d done nonstructural work, and at wetlands along the main front of the Bay, we saw very little damage to the shoreline itself. We were very surprised. It told us we were on to something."”

Since Isabel, we've seen even more dramatically how the absence of vegetated buffers between water and land can magnify hurricane impacts.

Along with helping to prevent land from sloughing off into the water, living shorelines are a far more accommodating habitat for terrapins, crabs, and fish than either wooden bulkheads, which shear away at any vegetation that may be in front of them, or stone rip-rap, which can cause serious injury to wildlife attempting to climb over it.

Of course, there are also those who argue that erosion is a natural/inevitable process, and that those purchasing waterfront property should go into that decision with their eyes open.

If you're considering a living shoreline for your property, there are several very knowledgeable assets in the community, including Environmental Concern and local river associations like the Severn River Association, South River Federation, and Magothy River Association.

From L to R: Wooden Bulkhead, Stone Rip Rap, Headland Breakwater with Living Shoreline



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