Living Shorelines Frequently Asked Questions

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 self-guided decision tools to help you decide what stabilization method is most suitable for your situation.

Do I need permits for a living shoreline project?

Yes, most shoreline projects require at least one and possibly more permits from local, state, and federal regulatory agencies.  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.

Can I get living shoreline permits faster than conventional bulkheads and revetments?

Yes, there are expedited state and federal permits for some living shoreline projects. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) has approved two general permits for living shoreline projects.  The US Army Corps of Engineers can issue a federal Nationwide Permit 54 for living shorelines.  These expedited permits have specific qualifying criteria and permit conditions that must be followed.  See Living Shoreline Laws, Policies & Permits for more information. 

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 local shoreline conditions like high winds, salt water flooding and salt in the air.  Look here for suitable native plants for living shorelines.  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 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 funding sources to assist with the cost of my living shoreline?

There are a variety of programs that include cost-sharing, grants, low-interest loans, and tax incentives.  Some of the programs are listed in the Shoreline Management Handbook - Restoration for Resilience

Where can I visit and learn more about living shoreline demonstration projects?

There are many demonstration projects now located throughout coastal Virginia.  Some of these projects are described in a Living Shorelines Story Map.  You can also contact your Local Wetlands Board staff for information about demonstration projects in your local area.

Where can I find help for site-specific project design and construction?
Who can I contact for more information about living shorelines? 

Please send your questions to CCRM Info.  We will direct your question to the appropriate person who will get back to you as soon as possible.