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Living Shoreline Permitting Do’s and Don’ts

Written on: March 22nd, 2021 in Living Shorelines

By Kenny Smith, Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program (WMAP)

When discussing living shorelines, you might not think the hardest and most unclear part would be getting your permits to accomplish this work. The permit process is sometimes difficult to navigate and can be confusing to someone not immersed in the environmental field. We decided to reach out to DNREC’s Wetlands and Subaqueous Land Section (WSLS) to answer some questions to clear up the confusion and better understand the process. 

  • Do I need a permit to install a living shoreline?
    • Yes! You will need a permit anytime your project is located in or adjacent to waterbodies.
    • If your project is in a tidal waterbody, the state jurisdiction is channelward of the mean high-water line and federal jurisdiction is channelward of the high tide line.
    • If your project is in a non-tidal waterbody, you will need a jurisdictional determination of state jurisdiction, or hire an environmental consultant for a federal jurisdiction.
  • Who is the permitting agency I will need to contact with questions or my permit?
    • Federal Jurisdiction:
      • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE): 215-656-6728
    • State Jurisdiction:
      • DNREC, Wetlands Subaqueous Lands Section (WSLS): 302-739-9943
      • DNREC, Delaware Coastal Programs: 302-739-9283
  • Do I need to be a licensed marine contractor to install a living shoreline?
    • No, but it is recommended to hire an experienced professional to design and install your shoreline.
    • In Delaware there is no licensing program currently.
    • The permits that you will apply for will have general conditions that your project must adhere to when installing.
Example of a living shoreline
  • Now that I have installed my living shoreline, what do I need to do when maintenance is needed?
    • Revisit your permit approvals.
      • Routinely there is a special condition that addresses maintenance activities.
    • If you have questions or want to change the initial design of the living shoreline, reach out to the resources mentioned above in this blog post.
  • With living shorelines being an environmentally friendly project, is there any financial assistance available?
    • Possibly! When you submit your permit application to WSLS, indicate that you would like cost share assistance. They will indicate what funding is currently available.
    • If approved:
      • Cost share will be paid at 50%, to not exceed $5,000
      • Landowner must agree to maintain the practice for 3 years.
      • Vegetated coverage of at least 85% of planted area with native species for those 3 years.
  • What living shoreline projects would be eligible for the cost share program?
    • The project must have a vegetation component and within these parameters:
      • Natural shoreline plantings to control shoreline erosion without the use of rock or other shoreline hardening techniques.
      • Projects that use less that 1 cubic foot of rock per linear foot of shoreline in combination with vegetative components. Note that the vegetative component must be at least twice the area of the footprint of the rock.
      • Marsh toe sill revetment designs in tidal waters that use less than 0.5 cubic yard of rock per linear foot of shoreline and incorporate a vegetative component that is at least twice the area of the footprint of the rock toe.

With these questions and answers I hope we have helped ease the confusion and provided some insight into the common questions relating to permits of living shorelines. This will not answer all of your questions, but DNREC is here – always reach out to the resources to get any clarification. 

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