Grants Can Help Pay for Living Shorelines

OCEAN –  Waterfront property owners along our coastal sounds, bays, rivers, tidal creeks and waterways may soon be eligible for financial aid to naturally control their eroding shorelines.

The North Carolina Coastal Federation will help waterfront landowners pay to install “living shorelines” on their property. Using plants, oyster shells and other natural features, living shorelines are natural alternatives to seawalls and other types of hardened structures.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is paying for the grant program.

Lexia Weaver

Lexia Weaver

“Right now, most people armor their eroding shorelines with bulkheads or riprap,” said Lexia Weaver, a coastal scientist with the federation.  “In many locations, there are better environmental alternatives that also better serve the needs of property owners.”

Living shorelines prevent erosion while maintaining the natural functions of the shoreline and protecting valuable salt marsh habitat.

“Typically, these shorelines have an offshore structure, or what we call a ‘speed bump for waves’ that are made of wood, rock or oyster shells paired with native marsh grass plantings,” Weaver said.

This combination is an effective erosion-control method that maintains a coastal ecosystem for fish, crabs and shellfish. Bulkheads, on the other hand, can lead to worsened erosion and sometimes require costly repairs.

Various shoreline-stabilization methods are shown, ranging from "green" living shorelines to hardened structures, shown in gray. Image: NOAA

Various shoreline-stabilization methods are shown, ranging from “green” living shorelines to hardened structures, shown in gray. Image: NOAA

Terry Woodlief of Newport in Carteret County lives along Jumping Run Creek. He’s interested in working with the federation to build living shorelines in his neighborhood, where five or six houses are experiencing erosion-related issues. He said these methods are attractive because of their ability to restore the environment, unlike other protection methods, like bulkheads, which do not.

“This is the only option that we’ve seen that will actually rebuild what you lost,” he said.

Sam Bland, left, and Lexia Weaver install a living shoreline of oyster shells. Photo: N.C. Coastal Federation

Sam Bland, left, and Lexia Weaver install a living shoreline of oyster shells. Photo: N.C. Coastal Federation

Living shorelines, he also noted, can be less expensive than a bulkhead. Weaver said it’s possible to keep the cost of living shorelines at only hundreds of dollars, as opposed to the thousands of dollars required for bulkheads.

The three-year federal grant aims to create at least 2,000 feet of living shorelines that will prevent erosion along private and public property.  The grant funding will also go toward training marine contractors in the implementation and design of living shorelines.

Projects selected by the federation for this program will receive a financial incentive as well as help in design, permitting and contractor selection. The federation has $75,000 available over two years to select 10-20 projects. A typical award per project will be around $5,000-$10,000 and will cover no more than 50 percent of the total cost.

“The federation will cost share selected projects with landowners to provide incentive for them to try this method of erosion control,” Weaver said. “We are confident that once someone installs a living shoreline, they will be impressed with the results. This will help us to market their wider use up and down the coast.”

An informational website is planned. Until then landowners call the federation for more information at 252-393-8185. Applications will be accepted through Friday, Sept. 2.  Applications are competitive. Awards will be announced by Nov. 1.

Coastal Review Online’s summer reporting intern Ashita Gona contributed to this report.

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The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.