Our Bay: Six 'living' shoreline projects move forward
By PAMELA WOOD Staff Writer
Saving the Chesapeake Bay doesn’t always start in the water.
Sometimes it starts at the shoreline.
Standing on the marshy banks of Spa Creek in Eastport, officials announced $800,000 worth of grants last week to help 16 communities in Maryland and Virginia install environmentally-friendly “living shorelines.”
Six of the projects are along Anne Arundel’s creeks and rivers, more than any other county.
“We’re not going to save the bay if we don’t save the shorelines,” said Robert Summers, the state’s secretary of the environment.
Living shorelines are a technique for buffering the Chesapeake’s shores from waves, wakes and winds in an environmentally-friendly way.
Instead of armoring the shoreline with wooden bulkheads or stone riprap — the practice for many decades — living shorelines use a combination of smaller amounts of rocks, marsh plants and other techniques to create a more natural interface between land and water.
Living shorelines are believed to do a better job absorbing the assaults of major storms, as the water can creep up onto the shore, instead of blasting into a hard wall of wood or stone that may crumble.
They also are attractive to wildlife, including diamondback terrapins and horseshoe crabs that need sandy beaches for nesting.
The grant recipients were selected by the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Trust, with the money coming from a combination of state, federal and private sources. Many of the grant recipients had to put up their own matching money to secure the grants.
Local projects include:
Although the grants were just awarded, a couple of the projects are already complete.
For the Church Creek project on the South River, the property owner and contractor were ready to move forward before the grant was in hand. So they moved forward and then were reimbursed, according to Erik Michelsen, director of the South River Federation.
The Magothy Beach community completed its project this summer and will dedicate it this month.
The community used about $72,000 from the Chesapeake Bay Trust grant, which paid for 75 percent of the living shoreline project. The remaining 25 percent came from the community’s special tax funds.
The beach used to be eroded with a dicey drop-off. Now, sets of stone piles flank each side of the community beach. River water laps in behind the stones, where 3,000 plugs of marsh grasses were planted to form a wetland.
In addition to paying for part of the living shoreline project, the community raised all of the money needed to re-grade and replenish the beach and to install pilings for a future fishing pier.
It was a long process, and the community association had to overcome some objections from residents who weren’t sold on the idea of a living shoreline.
“It is a nice project,” said Carol Elton, secretary of the Magothy Beach Improvement Association. “We’re really proud of it.”
The Chesapeake Bay Trust, a nonprofit headquartered in Annapolis, has given out $4 million worth of grants for living shorelines over the past seven years.
All told, 68 projects have resulted in 5.3 miles of living shorelines and 18 acres of wetlands.
(Revised September 2012)