Delaware Wetlands logo

Delaware Wetland Monitoring & Assessment Program

Facebook  Twitter  Instagram  Pinterest  YouTube  RSS Feed


Can I and Should I Build a Living Shoreline…

Written on: December 9th, 2020 in Living Shorelines

By Kenny Smith, Wetland Monitoring & Assessment Program

The Delaware Living Shorelines Committee members are often asked questions by landowners. Many of those questions relate to the suitability of their property for a living shorelines project. For example: is it possible to build a living shoreline on their property? Can a living shoreline protect their property from coastal erosion or create more beneficial habitat for wildlife?

The Site Evaluation Guidance Document

The Delaware Living Shoreline Committee has a smaller sub-committee, the Design and Engineering Sub-Committee, that decided to tackle these questions. They created a document that informs professionals and landowners about the feasibility of a living shoreline for a property. This document is called Site Evaluation for Living Shoreline Projects in Delaware. 

The Design and Engineering Sub-Committee consists of individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds, from government employees to private contractors, that are installing living shorelines in Delaware. This diverse group provided the necessary expertise to digest a lot of information into an easy-to-follow document. The guidance highlights important metrics to look at on a shoreline. The document is separated into a desktop analysis and a field visit portion. In total, there are 12 metrics to calculate during the desktop analysis and 5 additional metrics to collect during the field visit.

Metrics in the site evaluation document.

Site Evaluation: Desktop Analysis

The desktop analysis portion of site evaluation document explains important environmental parameters that must be calculated to determine the feasibility of a site for a living shoreline. You can calculate these parameters using desktop tools and resources. The list of parameters starts with descriptions of the site, shoreline problem, project goals, dimensions, and body of water. While these descriptor metrics are very basic, they are the basis for all future plans for the site.

Fetch calculation for a potential living shoreline design.

The next step is to collect metrics that will steer design plans and feed into calculating some of the more complex metrics. These metrics include shoreline orientation and shoreline change rate. They also include geomorphology of the site, such as upland, shore, and submerged areas. This information is important in classifying current conditions at the site and determining what kind of techniques would be suitable. You will then use the fetch (distance over which wind blows on the water surface to generate waves) and wind metrics to calculate wave climate. From there you can determine expected energy.

The tide metric will provide you with an idea of the range of water your site receives. It will also provide a working window once your project is designed. Delaware has the FEMA maps available online and they are another helpful resource to inform you about the suspected storm energy a site may receive.

Site Evaluation: Field Visit

Horseshoe crabs, bivalves, and endangered species like the red knot can all influence a living shoreline design.

Once you have completed the desktop metrics, it is time to visit your site. While it is always better to visit your site multiple times, it is possible to collect the information you need for this evaluation during one visit. While completing the field metrics, you should also be double-checking all of the data that you collected during the desktop analysis. This is an opportunity to fine-tune anything you may have missed or needs to be corrected. In addition, it is a good idea to take as many photographs as possible from various angles and zooms to capture the shoreline.

For site boundaries, you are looking for both physical and jurisdictional boundaries, while for land use/ land cover, you are looking at how the surrounding land is used and what kind of vegetation is present. There is also another metric to capture the geology of your site based on the field visit and fill in any holes from the geomorphology desktop metric. Once again, look in the upland, shore, and submerged areas for sediment types and any other pertinent information. Ecology of your site is split into biotic and abiotic features. Biotic features include plants and animals, whereas abiotic features include water quality, soil type, and sunlight.

 It is very important to create site sketches, as they are the best way to quickly assess the spatial relationships among existing features, slopes, and land cover. You should draw a plan view and a profile view to best capture this information for later use during a design. You should also take note of any surrounding healthy shorelines, as they may be a helpful reference for your future site design.

Example site plan sketch showing a bird’s eye view of a project site with a variety of features.

Putting It All Together

The information you collect in the site evaluation document will help you determine current condition of shoreline. It will also help you figure out the most suitable living shoreline techniques, potential design constraints, and permitting conditions for your site.  For instance, your shoreline could be suitable for a planting and coir log design. On the other hand, it could need more protection and need to rely on a sill designed with rock to slow the energy down.

While this document can provide very vital information, it is important that you still consult a professional to create a design based off the information collected in the document. Sites with exposure to extremely high wave energy tend to present challenges when designing a living shoreline. Sites with steep shorelines or very shaded shorelines tend to present challenges as well.

Get Experience!

The Design and Engineering Sub-Committee usually hosts a one-day training for roughly 15 participants during the spring months going over the site evaluation guidance and then visiting 4-5 sites to use the information you gained on evaluating sites for living shorelines. Stay tuned for information on this training.

You can find the site evaluation document here. You can also find many other resources on the Delaware Living Shorelines Committee website.


Beneficial Reuse of Dredge Material: Rebuilding a Former Tidal Wetland

Written on: December 9th, 2020 in Beneficial UseWetland Restorations

By Erin Dorset, Wetland Monitoring & Assessment Program The Mid-Atlantic is a sea-level rise hotspot, meaning that rates of sea level rise in the region are relatively high. As such, scientists, outdoor enthusiasts, and coastal communities alike are all worried about the fate of tidal wetlands. Here at Delaware’s WMAP, we’re seeing what we can […]

Read More


Salt Marshes: Working Hard Without Pay

Written on: December 9th, 2020 in Wetland Assessments

Guest Student Writer: Sandra Demberger, M.S., recent graduate, Villanova University Boaters, kayakers, and bird watchers are drawn to salt marshes for their quiet beauty. Wildlife, ranging from great blue herons to tiny fiddler crabs, and marsh grasses rustling in the soothing breeze, all draw recreators to these coastal systems. But did you know, these seemingly […]

Read More


Derelict Crab Pots in Delaware’s Recreational Blue Crab Fishery

Written on: December 9th, 2020 in Outreach

Guest Writer: Kate Fleming, Delaware Sea Grant When crab pots* are lost or abandoned at sea, they remain in the water, free to continue to capture blue crabs as they are designed to do. They can also capture other animals like diamondback terrapin and summer flounder. Since derelict crab pots are not tended by anyone, […]

Read More


New Delaware Wetland Maps Available

Written on: September 24th, 2020 in Wetland Assessments

by Alison Rogerson, Wetland Monitoring & Assessment Program Measuring wetland health and function is a primary task for DNREC’s Wetland Monitoring and Assessment. We work on this every year, one watershed at a time. Tracking wetland acreage across the state is also vitally important to managing Delaware’s wetland. Updating statewide wetland maps is a lot […]

Read More


Wetlands in an Urban Landscape: The Red Lion Watershed

Written on: September 17th, 2020 in Wetland Assessments

By Erin Dorset, Wetland Monitoring & Assessment Program Most of our wetland assessments throughout the years have been in central and southern Delaware, but in the summer of 2017, our Wetland Monitoring and Assessment crew went north to perform wetland condition assessments at 116 wetlands in the Red Lion watershed. From protocol updates to navigating […]

Read More


Microplastics: A Not So Tiny Tale

Written on: September 17th, 2020 in Outreach

By Mike Mensinger, DNREC Coastal Programs Humans rely heavily on plastics in the modern era. We produce and use plastics for many things in life including, but not limited to, product packaging, plastics bags, utensils and much more. Simply look around your current area and count the number of plastic products or components surrounding you. […]

Read More


Dinophysis acuminata: a dinoflagellate you should know

Written on: September 17th, 2020 in Outreach

Guest Student Writer: Amanda K. Pappas, Delaware State University What is a dinoflagellate? Dinoflagellates are a group of microscopic, mostly unicellular aquatic protists that are members of the plankton community. They live in fresh and marine waters, spanning the tropics to the arctic. Fossil records of dinoflagellates exist that are hundreds of millions of years […]

Read More


It’s an Algae, It’s a Plankton, NO It’s SAV!

Written on: September 17th, 2020 in Outreach

By Michael Bott, DNREC Watershed Assessment and Management Section Delaware’s Inland Bays (Rehoboth Bay, Indian River Bay, and Little Assawoman Bay) are home to many familiar animals such as finfish, crabs, and clams. But did you know that in addition to these aquatic animals, the Inland Bays are also home to many types of aquatic […]

Read More


Off the Rails: Studies on Delaware Clapper Rail

Written on: May 18th, 2020 in Wetland Animals

Colloquially known as marsh hens, the Clapper Rail (Rallus crepitans) is a vocal inhabitant of saltmarshes across the eastern coast of the United States and down into the Caribbean. Many of the first in-depth observations of Clapper Rail occurred in the mid-Atlantic, and in Delaware, Brooke Meanley documented much of their ecology. The northern Clapper Rail populations, including Delaware, have been declining based on extensive survey work conducted by the Saltmarsh Habitat Avian Research Program (SHARP).

Read More

Delaware Wetland Management & Assessment Program