May 31, 2017

Living Shorelines Control Coastal Erosion

Research from the University of North Carolina shows potential for cost-effective solution

Research shows how living shorelines can help erosion

A recent study from the University of North Carolina (UNC) Institute of Marine Science has shown that living shorelines can reduce shoreline erosion.

“Salt marsh plants in and of themselves are actually pretty good at breaking wave energy,” said Carter Smith, a Ph.D. student studying living shorelines at the UNC Intuitute of Marine Sciences.

Smith set to find out whether bulkheads or living shorelines were more cost effective for homeowners in the long run. She documented damage done by Hurricanes Irene and Arthur along the Outer Banks.

“We saw that approximately 20% of the shoreline that was bulk-headed was damaged after each storm,” Carter said.

She also found that bulkhead repair for that damage was twice as costly as for living shorelines, and the annual maintenance for a bulkhead can be four times as costly as for a living shoreline. The higher upfront cost has stopped some from taking that route.

Smith hopes this new research will help make a homeowner’s decision to put in a living shoreline a little easier. The Wargins in Broad Creek had theirs put in last fall, and they are already seeing positive results.

“As advertised, we’re seeing an increase in the soil on this side of the oyster shells, so on the home side we’re seeing it fill in a little bit,” said Kurt Wargin, who has lived along the Bogue Sound in Broad Creek for 25 years.

After watching Bogue Sound creep closer and closer to their home over 25 years, the Wargins are encouraged by the changes they’re already seeing.

“Already we’ve seen that the bags of oyster shells that act like a filter, I guess, in a way and stabilize the shoreline, we’re seeing the oyster bags themselves are filling with soil,” added Wargin.

Full results are expected at the Wargin property in about one to two years.