Answering the Most Asked Shoreline Stabilization Question – Hard or Soft Approach?

To help people make informed decisions about shoreline stabilization, the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve launched the Sustainable Shorelines project to study the engineering, economic, and ecological trade-offs associated with various options. The project included a forensic analysis of six sites on the Hudson River.

The project—which received a 2015 Environmental Quality Award from the Environmental Protection Agency—provides engineering and ecological guidance, geospatial data, and economic information about different options, including “harder” options such as steel bulkheads, and “softer” options such as vegetated banks or coconut fiber rolls. Performance information under a range of conditions is provided, including extreme events such as Post-Tropical Storm Sandy. Associated trainings are building local capacity to use this information and facilitating productive relationships among diverse stakeholders.

The reserve staff credits the engagement of a wide range of stakeholders, including engineers, landscape architects, and permit officials, as a major reason for the project’s success. (2016)

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Partners: Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Consensus Building Institute, Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and its Hudson River Estuary Program, NOAA Office for Coastal Management, Stevens Institute of Technology