Issues: Shoreline Hardening

The shoreline edge, where land meets water, is the incubator and nursery for all life in the Bay and its tributaries. Not only do these areas provide habitat for wildlife, they also protect water quality by trapping excess nutrients and sediment.

Unfortunately, the Severn is fast losing its critical land/water edge to “shoreline hardening.” Although a number of options are available for managing shoreline erosion, many landowners choose to harden their shoreline with riprap. This practice destroys the natural ecosystem, thereby eliminating critical habitat.

In 2003, two of our board members, Dave Wallace and Jim Sullivan, made a rough estimate of how much of the Severn’s shoreline had been hardened. The estimate was based on a visual aerial survey of the River with selective ‘groundtruthing’ of the results by visual observation from a boat. As of March of that year, a little less then half, 44 percent, had been hardened, either by bulkhead or riprap. The Comprehensive Coastal Inventory Program (CCI) at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) conducts aerial surveys of Maryland’s coastal shoreline conditions. Based on their 2006 dataset, we were able to create the following map showing the Severn’s hardened shoreline.

"Berman, M.R., Berquist, H., Killeen, S., Nunez, K., Rudnicky, T., Schatt, D.E., Weiss, D. and K. Reay, 2006. Anne Arundel County, Maryland - Shoreline Situation Report, Comprehensive Coastal Inventory Program, Virginia Institute of Marine

"Berman, M.R., Berquist, H., Killeen, S., Nunez, K., Rudnicky, T., Schatt, D.E., Weiss, D. and K. Reay, 2006.
Anne Arundel County, Maryland - Shoreline Situation Report, Comprehensive Coastal Inventory Program,
Virginia Institute of Marine

Fortunately, in 2008 we experienced a major victory in protecting the Severn’s shorelines. The scientific community has long known and reported that living shorelines can both protect the shoreline from erosion and preserve those areas critical to life in the Bay. In our 2007 SevernStat Report we recommended that the Governor mandate their use for erosion control. He responded by signing into law the Living Shoreline Protection Act of 2008. This legislation requires, where feasible, shorefront lot owners to use non-structural erosion control techniques like “soft” shorelines and marsh creation to protect the shore from erosion instead of bulk-heads or rip-rap.

If you or your community is interested in installing a living shoreline on your property we can help by recommending reliable construction companies, and with finding potential funding sources. Please call our office for further information.