Shoreline Stabilization:Protecting our fragile ecosystem.
Georgia’s coast is a complex and dynamic ecosystem, with daily tides, natural erosion, and human activity influencing our creeks and marshes. Erosion is a natural part of the living marsh, but many upland structures like roads, buildings, and docks depend on a stable foundation .
Traditionally, erosion-prone banks have been stabilized with bulkheads or rip rap, a common sight along tidal creeks and rivers in coastal Georgia communities. These techniques result in shoreline hardening or armoring because they replace natural marsh mud and grasses with wood, concrete, or rock. They also eliminate the interactions between the uplands and marshes.
Using hard materials to stabilize an eroding shoreline is sometimes the only option, especially in an environment with high wave energy or close to a building or a busy road. But in other cases, alternatives to shoreline hardening provide an opportunity to stabilize without disrupting the natural ecosystem function.
Living shorelines are alternatives to bulkheads and hard structures. They not only stabilize the shore but they also can trap sediments, promote plant growth, foster fish and shellfish recruitment, and enhance ecosystem function.
The Coastal Resources Division (CRD) of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Nature Conservancy, and Little St. Simons Island (LSSI) are contributing to an important body of research (or pilot projects) through the living shoreline work group. Georgia currently has two living shorelines on Sapelo Island, one on Little St. Simons Island, and one under construction at Cannon’s Point on St. Simons Island. Research on LSSI indicates that the living shoreline has increased the diversity and density of fish populations in only two year’s time, and cost analysis shows they cost less than traditional methods.
One Hundred Miles will continue to advocate for alternatives to shoreline hardening, where possible. While Georgia’s projects are in the pilot stage now, we hope they will become widely accessible as contractors become familiar with the techniques needed and as the permitting process becomes more streamlined.
Living shorelines are dynamic, adaptable, and ecologically thriving – just like our Georgia coast. They enhance our stewardship of our tidal creeks and marshes and offer a new tool for our communities to protect and enhance the environment. Want to learn more? Go on a virtual tour of living shorelines in Georgia!