“Living shorelines” is an increasingly popular approach to erosion control that uses strategically placed plants, stone and sand to deflect wave action, conserve soil and simultaneously provide critical shoreline habitat. Living shorelines often stand up to wave energy better than solid bulkheads or revetments, which add to the problem by amplifying waves on neighboring shores. Living shorelines are a suite of techniques that offer property owners the opportunity to protect and restore their shoreline using more naturally-occurring systems like salt marsh and oyster reefs while also providing benefits to bays and estuaries.
Here is a link to an article on this subject.
Shoreline Erosion Control, The Natural Approach from Maryland DNR, explains how many shorelines and protected coves can benefit from an alternative, non-structural technique.
The Living Shorelines Stewardship Initiative (LSSI) was a collaborative project supported by several public and private entities to improve water quality and enhance habitat for living resources in the Chesapeake Bay through the shoreline management efforts of individual waterfront property owners.
In North Carolina, the living shorelines concept has been successfully applied on the campus of Carteret Community College on the south shore of Bogue Sound in Morehead City. In 2005, the area had just gone through a period of high hurricane activity, and the campus' shoreline, always buffeted by wakes from boats in the Intracoastal Waterway, was lined with cement-filled bags to stop erosion. That’s when college officials made what was then an a fairly unusual decision: With help from the N.C. Coastal Federation, they decided to put in an erosion-control system comprised of marsh vegetation and other natural materials, such as shells. Nearly a decade later, the person in charge of that project, biology instructor Meg Rawls, stated “That marsh grass has filled in nicely, and Mother Nature has even contributed some extra plants, including native shrubs. I even recently found a blackberry vine. We had envisioned that this project would stabilize and naturalize the appearance of our waterfront, but we had not anticipated that it would also attract wildlife, including herons and egrets, ducks and even one documented manatee.”
A 2015 report by Restore America's Estuaries provides a national assessment of the barriers that are keeping living shorelines projects and programs from being more widely used. The report identifies three major obstacles to broader use of living shorelines: 1) institutional inertia; 2) lack of a broader planning context; and 3) lack of an advocate. To address these obstacles, the report identifies four broad strategies, including: 1) education and outreach; 2) regulatory reform; 3) improve institutional capacity; and 4) public agencies as role models. Each strategy identifies a number of specific and actionable recommendations for decision and policy makers.
Restore America's Estuaries has now created a video showing some real world applications of Living Shorelines on both the East and West Coasts:
Also see NOAA's information on living shorelines and this video from Martha's Vineyard Productions that chronicles a grant project by the Martha's Vineyard Shellfish Group which aims to apply a marsh restoration technique on the island of Martha's Vineyard which was originally developed in the Delaware Bay area. More on this.