Pines on the Severn Project Highlights Benefits & Challenges of Living Shorelines

An October 19, 2015, Maryland Reporter article highlighted the potential benefits and challenges of doing a living shoreline project as opposed to a traditional bulkhead for water quality and shore protection purposes.  Living shorelines stabilize and protect shore and coastal areas through the use of natural materials, such as sand, aquatic vegetation and wetlands plants, oyster reefs, and limited amounts of rock. The article noted that the first challenge for the project was simply getting a permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE):

In 2013, the project ran into trouble. Pines on the Severn wanted to replace a 400-foot, 30-year-old decaying bulkhead and shoreline with a living shoreline. [MDE] denied a permit under the state’s 2008 Living Shoreline Protection Act. To save the project, Severn Riverkeeper Fred Kelly filed an appeal in Circuit Court against the MDE.

The legal action challenged the MDE’s claim that the application’s approval “window” had expired. Wrangling over several years, according to Chesapeake Legal Alliance, the pro-bono law group that handled the case, was “due to rigid application of criteria that did not account for site specific factors around which the plan was tailored.” Ultimately the  community and the MDE came to an agreement, a new permit was approved, and the case closed.


Aerial view from drone of living shoreline. Photos copyright by Underwood & Associates.
Aerial view from drone of living shoreline. Photos copyright by Underwood & Associates. (Sourced from the Maryland Reporter)


The article also noted that funding for the project had to come from a variety of sources:

After filing for a new permit, the Department of Natural Resources funded the project to the tune of $299,000. The Pines on the Severn 237-home community improvement association kicked in $24,000. The Severn Riverkeeper contributed in-kind services, as did the Chesapeake Legal Alliance.

Finally, the article noted some of the benefits of a living shoreline, including the beach replenishment  and the creation of habitat to attract desirable Bay animal and plant species:

[Shoreline designer and contractor Keith Underwood] remade part of Chase Creek’s shore into small lagoons to slow wave action, both from wind and boats, naturally facilitating the deposit of sand to maintain the shoreline. Calmer wave action also tends to leave beach sand finer rather than coarser. …

In an on-site interview, Underwood said, “There are two species of ribbed mussel we’re going to look for here. …

“It won’t surprise me over time to see oysters colonize on some of the stone here as well,” Underwood said. “We’re going to try to re-establish redhead grass in the face of these lagoons.” …

White perch, for instance, seek such habitat. They do not seek bulkheads. And, with the return of natural sediments in living shorelines comes food for benthic- feeding fish in the Bay such as summer flounder and Atlantic croaker.