Innovative Living Shoreline Stands Up to Fierce Winter Storms

Massachusetts received a NOAA Regional Coastal Resilience Grant to advance the use of “living shorelines,” erosion-control structures that use plants and other natural materials. With the grant, the effectiveness of this approach was studied and tested, and materials and expertise developed to help people make the right decisions for their situations. Traditional hard erosion-control structures, such as seawalls and revetments, protect uplands but can accelerate erosion. Living shorelines encourage natural beach dynamics.

The results of this effort came in handy for an Orleans property owner whose former natural shoreline was demolished by 2015’s winter storm Juno. An ecologist and coastal engineer teamed up to ensure that the redesigned natural shoreline could withstand severe winter weather. Their completed project added 80 percent more plant coverage, slowed the erosion of a 30-foot bank, protected property and coastal structures, preserved sandy beach, and improved wildlife habitat. Their strategically placed coconut fiber rolls and pillows (known as coir rolls), plus added plantings, were responsible for dramatically slowing the water velocity at the bottom of slopes and shoreline.

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Partners: Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, NOAA, Northeast Regional Ocean Council, Wilkinson Ecological Design