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Living Shorelines - Frequently Asked Questions

- Do I have an erosion problem?
- What kind of living shoreline project is most suitable for my property?
- Do I need permits for a living shoreline project?
- What if my property is currently defended by a revetment or bulkhead?
- What plants are suitable for living shorelines and where can I buy them?
- How do I plant tidal marsh grasses along my shoreline?
- How do living shorelines perform during a nor’easter or hurricane?
- How much does a living shoreline project cost?
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Are there photographic or on-the-ground examples of various kinds of living shoreline treatments?


Do I have an erosion problem?

Erosion is a natural process occurring along most Chesapeake Bay shorelines.  Bare soil areas without vegetation, numerous fallen trees, collapsing banks, and gradual shoreline retreat are all signs of erosion.  Not all erosion is a problem that needs to be corrected.  If the erosion rate is very slow and the risk is low if the erosion continues, then consider leaving the shoreline in a natural condition.  If the erosion cannot be tolerated and needs to be reduced, then first consider if a living shoreline method may be effective.


What kind of living shoreline project is most suitable for my property?

The best project type depends on location and the type of erosion.  Look for existing natural buffers, such as bank vegetation, tidal marshes, and sand beaches.  These features indicate suitable growing conditions for plants and they can be enhanced to improve erosion protection.  Click here for an alternatives analysis to help you decide what stabilization method is most suitable for your situation. Here is an on-line course with more information to guide you through the choices. 


Do I need permits for a living shoreline project?

Yes, most shoreline projects require at least one permit.  Any shoreline alteration has the potential to impact the environment or adjacent property owners.  The permit process is required by laws designed to balance the need for shoreline management with environmental protection.  Click here for more information about the living shorelines permit process


What if my property is currently defended by a revetment or bulkhead?

Even if your property is already protected from erosion, you can enhance the existing vegetation buffers near the shoreline and do not mow frequently close to the water.  You can also capture rainwater and re-direct stormwater runoff away from the shoreline.  Failed bulkheads on quiet tidal creeks can be replaced with bank grading and restored vegetation buffers. A decision tree on how to evaluate currently defended shorelines was developed to assist with this question.


What plants are suitable for living shorelines and where can I buy them?

There are many native plants adapted to the harsh conditions along Chesapeake Bay shorelines.  Waterfront landscape designs should include plants that can tolerate high winds, salt water flooding and salt in the air.  Look here for suitable native plants for upland, wetland and beach areas of living shoreline projects.  There are several native plant nurseries that provide these plants or you can ask your local nursery to find them for you.


How do I plant tidal marsh grasses along my shoreline?

The first thing to consider is the presence or absence of tidal marsh grass in the vicinity.  If the shoreline has no existing marsh grasses, then the growing conditions may not be suitable.  The water may be too deep during high tide and/or there is not at least 6 hours of full sun on the shoreline every day in the summer.  If there is existing marsh and plenty of sunlight, then growing conditions may be suitable.  Click here for more information about planting tidal marshes.


How do living shorelines perform during a nor’easter or hurricane?

Severe storms cause catastrophic erosion in a short period of time.  All shoreline stabilization structures have a limited tolerance for storm damage, including revetments and bulkheads.  Living shoreline projects with gradual slopes and integrated vegetation buffers are surprisingly resilient.  It is important to know what to expect at your location and to properly design a project for the expected conditions.  Click here for living shorelines technical design guidance


How much does a living shoreline project cost?

The construction costs for living shoreline projects and other stabilization methods vary widely depending on the shoreline length, level of protection needed, and the costs for materials and labor.   Non-structural methods cost an average $50 - $100 per foot, such as beach nourishment and planted marshes.  Projects with sand fill and/or stone structures typically cost $150 - $500 per foot.  This does not include permitting costs.  Upfront construction cost is only one factor to consider.  The value of ecosystem services provided by living shorelines help offset these costs indirectly over time. 


Are there photographic or on-the-ground examples of various kinds of living shoreline treatments?
Please see the public demonstration area map to visit areas with living shoreline treatments. There is also a gallery of photographs containing before and after pictures of living shorelines.

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