Living Shorelines

Posted on July 24th, 2015

New Jersey’s 127-mile stretch of coastal line along the Atlantic Ocean and 83 miles of shoreline along the Raritan and Delaware Bays serve as a barrier between ocean and land compromising of the most ecologically rich and dynamic environments in the State. As a result, the coast is vulnerable to an array of natural hazards. The shorelines of New Jersey are subject to the effects of flooding, storms, chronic erosion, sea level rise, and extra-tropical storms. During the last decade, hurricanes have contributed to substantial threats to the State’s coastal barrier.

As a response to natural impacts to special areas that are regulated by the Department, a set of management practices have been developed to address the erosion of vegetated shorelines and beaches with the purpose of protecting, restoring or enhancing coastal areas. These approaches are known as “living shorelines” which are proven methods employed to stabilize shorelines and mitigate costal risks. Originally developed in the Chesapeake Bay about two decades ago, the living shorelines approach used low profile or natural breakwaters known as marsh sills in an attempt to engineer natural systems into the natural environment. Since its inception, the term living shoreline has evolved to include projects with a broader set of ecological principles which are implemented by engineering design.

The living shorelines approach is categorized into three different systems: natural, hybrid, and structural. The first system, natural living shoreline, consists of natural vegetation, aquatic vegetation, fill, and biodegradable organic materials. The second, hybrid living shorelines, consists of low-profile rock structures such as sills, jetties, revetment, living reefs, oyster shell patch reefs, stone containment, and living breakwaters seeded with native shellfish in addition to natural vegetation, aquatic vegetation, fill, biodegradable organic materials. Finally, the structural living shorelines consist of revetments, breakwaters, and groins.

The NJDEP Division of Land Use Regulation recently posted literature titled “Living Shorelines Engineering Guidelines” prepared by the Stevens Institute of Technology’s Davidson Laboratory. The report cites as its mission to equip engineering consultants, regulators, and private property owners with the knowledge towards designing, permitting and constructing living shoreline projects that are consistent with regulations enforced by the State of New Jersey. In July 2013, the State officially established the Coastal General Permit 29, General Permit 24 (N.J.A.C. 7:7-7.29), otherwise known as the Living Shorelines General Permit to encourage the “habitat creation, restoration, enhancement, and living shoreline activities.”

The living shorelines serves to protect coastal areas that are under the effect of erosion. Per the NJDEP, living shorelines are the preferred method for coastal stabilization, as opposed to structures such as retaining walls. There are no exemptions, Permits-by-rule, or General Permits-by-Certification for living shoreline projects.

For more information about living shorelines and requirements of the General Permit, visit the link below:

Daniel Martins

Environmental Scientist

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