Save Your Shoreline Animation by SRA


Save Your Shoreline

The Challenge

What’s the best way to protect a shoreline, a crimson cliff, Severn River fisheries, animal habitat, property values and access and enjoyment of the Severn River?

The quick answer is in the picture above.

You’re looking at a living shoreline that is solving the typical erosion problem on the Severn River. This design not only protects that shoreline and cliff from storm and powerboat wave energy, but it’s also rebuilding the natural sandy shoreline that had virtually disappeared due to storms, rising sea level and wave energy.

The project above is on the Severn River. It was designed and built by John Flood of Flood Bros. Marine Consultants, Inc. Flood Bros. are typical of the new wave of marine designers who understand the science, the techniques and the art of protecting properties with living shoreline designs – in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

The key to all this are the rock breakwaters parallel to the shore

No sand was imported. It all came from the river bottom just off-shore. Three months before these breakwaters were installed 30 feet offshore, the shoreline was a skinny strip of sand barely reaching past the shade of the trees. At high tide, there was hardly any dry land to walk along the shore.

Three months later, the shoreline connects to the rock breakwaters, forming tombolo’s.

Here are two examples:

The breakwaters are redirecting wave energy to rebuild the lost shoreline using sand from the river itself.

All that open, natural shoreline is now habitat for turtles and horseshoe crabs that rely on open shores to lay their eggs to start a new generation on the Severn River.

To the right, that’s John Flood just a couple of weeks after installing the breakwater, his feet in the water, explaining how a tombolo of sand grows in the lee of his strategically placed breakwaters.  Today, he’d be standing well above the water line.

Cost-effective ways to protect our shorelines

These living shoreline designs, with their low-profile rock breakwaters, are cost-effective ways to protect shorelines, property, cliffs, fisheries, beaches, habitat and open access to the river. The designs promoted by the new wave of designers are the product of new science and technology mixed in with long-earned experiences that date back to the bulkhead era.

The secret in the design is knowing how and where to place these breakwaters so they protect property and encourage natural replenishment of the lost sandy beach. These designs are also more resilient to higher tides caused by rising sea levels.

And, by considering a living shoreline as the tool to do battle with Mother Nature, communities are are not only protecting property and shorelines, but they’re protecting our very name, the “Scenic” Severn River.

Our river enjoys the “Scenic” designation from the state of Maryland because of our unique crimson cliffs, the abundance of forested areas and the wide array of sandy beaches, marshes and wetlands.

These natural features provide rich habitat for wildlife such as kingfishers, turtles, horseshoe crabs, perch, striped bass, crabs, bald eagles, herons, ducks, osprey and oysters.

The picture to the left is of two horseshoe crabs who took advantage of the natural shoreline habitat created by a living shoreline John Flood designed and built on the South River.

This habitat is just inside the breakwater shown below:

In the good old days …

For generations, we relied on bulkheads and rock revetments because they were, at the time, the only tools available. But these solutions came with unintended consequences. These “hard” structures damage fisheries and habitat and they can significantly reduce access to the water. There’s science to explain why these hard structures diminish fisheries.

A recent study from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) details what fishermen have long understood, that fish and crabs disappear once bulkheads and revetments are installed.

The following graph easily explains the science.  There’s a clear reason why the fisherman is on the left side of the river.


Living Shoreline Technologies

Shoreline and cliff protected from erosion by the rock breakwaters that absorb wave energy. Source: MD DNR

Living shoreline designs create open spaces along a river’s shoreline, mimicking Mother Nature’s natural defenses against erosion.

Think of the breakwaters as the reefs that create those serene, calm blue waters around Caribbean and South Pacific Islands.

These so-called “soft” living shoreline designs rely on a mix of sand, vegetation, grasses to support the strategically placed rock breakwaters that deflect wave energy away from the shore and provide home to wildlife.

The SRA’s Save Your Shorelines Program offers a Tool Kit of resources that explain these benefits and offer tools and proofs that living shorelines not only protect property against erosion, but they also improve the Severn River’s water quality, habitat, fisheries and natural beauty.

Plus, living shoreline designs greatly improve enjoyment and use of your shoreline and enhance property values.

Here’s a proof — a living shoreline project that restored a beach area lost after installation of a bulkhead and rock revetment.

This living shoreline, designed and built by Flood Brothers Marine Consultants, Inc., is right on the Severn River in the Horn Point area of Eastport.

Before – Bulkhead had destroyed beach area


After: Shoreline restored to utility, function and beauty


How is all this possible?

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) created a short video to explain the basics of why living shorelines are a cost-effective and preferred alternative to bulkheads and rip-rap revetments.

Click on video below to watch DNR’s living shoreline video.

DNR has also published this side-by-side comparison of advantages and limitations of living shorelines vs rip-rap revetments.

Living Shorelines vs. Revetments. Source: MD Department of Natural Resources

Living shorelines are also effective tools to protect shoreline property from rising sea levels, increased storm activity, as explained in this article.

Living shoreline designers include:

  1. Sepehr Baharlou, with, 410-694-9401,
  2. John Flood, with Flood Brothers Marine Consultants,,
  3. Albert McCullough, with Sustainable Science,,
  4. Scott Petrey, with Wetlands, Studies and Solutions,, and
  5. Keith Underwood, with Underwood and Associates:

Living shorelines:

  • protect shorelines from powerboat wakes,
  • protect property from tidal surges during severe storms and hurricanes (click here for a sample).
  • create wildlife habitat along the river – turtles and horseshoe crabs require open shorelines to create nests and lay egs,
  • reduce stormwater runoff pollutants that are not controlled by revetments,
  • provide cost advantages over bulkheads and revetments, and
  • protect cliffs and property from shoreline erosion.


Severn River Communities, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Critical Area Commission, Maryland Department of the Environment, Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works, Flood Bros. Marine Consultants, Inc., Environmental Quality Resources, Sustainable Science, LLC.


Program Goal

Instill a river-wide ethic of creating living shorelines that, unlike hard structures, grow over time and can replenish beaches while preserving open shoreline habitat.

Program Outcomes

  • Improve understanding of what creates healthy riparian ecosystems and of why natural shorelines are important for the Severn River,
  • Increase awareness that many of the Severn’s ecological challenges are caused locally and can be addressed locally,
  • Assist homeowners in making decisions that enhance the Severn’s ecology and, by extension, improves their own enjoyment of it and their associated property values,
  • Provide examples and concepts for soft-shoreline alternatives to hard-shoreline structures in low energy conditions,
  • Foster understanding of regulatory and permitting requirements when work is done at the shoreline, and
  • Encourage permit writers to insist living by the spirit of the law to install living shorelines as the primary solution to erosion problems.