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New! Providing Living Shoreline Design Assistance in Delaware

Written on: December 14th, 2023 in Living ShorelinesOutreach

By Alison Rogerson, DNREC’s Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program

Hot off the press this month from the Delaware Living Shorelines Committee is a guidance document that aims to help landowners and professionals design and install nature-based shoreline stabilization projects. The Techniques and Application of Living Shorelines in Delaware guidance is the newest resource released by the Delaware committee, whose primary goal is to increase the frequency and success of living shorelines across the state.

The Techniques and Application guidance presents a compilation of common design configurations, and an overview of commonly used materials to help users conceptualize an appropriate and successful living shoreline. This guidance is the closest thing to a living shoreline cookbook as it can be. Due to an infinitely diverse set of conditions and factors in every shoreline situation, it is important to make each project a custom design that isn’t cookie cutter.

The first chapter encourages the user to define their project classification and select their project-specific goals before any design work is done; a conventional or hybrid classification? and then shoreline position, habitat, or water quality goals? The proper three-step process starts by defining project class and goals, followed by selecting design elements to meet those goals, finished by selecting materials to build those design elements.

Chapter two runs through eight significant shoreline stabilization design concepts where a living component is always present. This is where broad decisions can be made to order based on conditions and goals. These descriptions are super helpful by breaking information down as common uses, common materials used in that design element, how that element can help or hinder goals, what ecological opportunities the element provides (e.g. for oysters, SAV, sediment deposition, wildlife passage), and important limitations and considerations (navigational hazards, energy deflection, short lifespan, wildlife impingement).

An example of a one of the eight significant shoreline stabilization design concepts.

The third chapter is a breakdown of seven common materials used in living shorelines. Each section includes a nice description of the material, how they are installed, their typical lifespan, and how they can expect to support life as the project settles in. Especially nice are the color-coded tables indicating which specific project goal that material can contribute to. For example, in the table below, rock material can be effective in reducing wave energy and provides a durable way to change vertical and horizontal shoreline position but has limitations with drainage (related to fish and sediment passage) and is not ideal for providing valuable habitat.

An example of a color-coded table.

Lastly, for a little more help with visualization, is a chapter dedicated to showcasing case study examples of various designs and techniques installed around Delaware. Each of the seven examples highlights varying energy levels, design elements and materials. Each simple project-specific flyer runs through overall details, describes starting conditions, mentions the permits used, and lists out the design elements and materials that were incorporated. Lots of project photos show the reader before and after.

After completing these steps, a user should have a solid and reasonable idea to draft into drawings that can be included with permit applications and cost estimates. By thoughtfully selecting the components and materials, users are less likely to be surprised by unexpected setbacks and are more likely to reach their intended project goals.

From its inception, the Standards of Practice Sub-committee envisioned this guidance to be the next resource to fit into the suite of tools drafted by the Delaware Living Shorelines Committee that helps users through the entire process of embracing green designs to address shoreline protection and restoration needs. Other crafted resources cover topics such as site evaluation and feasibility to decide if and where a living shoreline would be appropriate, and goal-based monitoring to track success after construction.

Want to learn more about living shorelines and stay in touch with new developments? Sign up to for an upcoming webinar or catch up on past webinar recordings. Especially for professionals working in Delaware, stay tuned for details in the new year about the annual Introduction to Living Shorelines Training Workshop. Professionals interested in joining the Delaware Living Shorelines Committee should contact Committee Chair, Alison Rogerson Landowners just getting started can find a provider to help them and shop for materials nearby.

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