Living Shoreline at Hollywood on the Severn

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My name is Ben Fertig, I’m the Restoration Manager at Severn River Association (SRA). My job is to help communities improve their local environment and restore the Severn River. Good communication is really important to me. So I’ve put together this page to let you know about what’s happening with the living shoreline project in Hollywood-on-Severn. If you ever have any questions or concerns, please let me know! My email is 

Click on any picture to make it bigger or to download.

I really want your input and feedback on the project (see Project Summary below). Right now, while the project is still in its early stages, is the best opportunity to make sure to get it right. Please let me know what you think.  As we get closer to a finished design, there will be less wiggle room to make changes. Once the design is 100% complete, it will be locked in and we won’t be able to make changes.

SRA is a 501c3 non-profit organization with experience and success at pursuing funding and project management for pollution reduction and environmental restoration. Our vision is a thriving Severn River by 2050, and our mission is to connect the people who live, work, and play on the Severn River to restore and protect it for all of our communities. 

Project Origin

SRA and Hollywood-on-Severn Improvement Association (HOSIA) are partnering together. HOSIA’s bulkhead by the communal gathering area is failing and it will need to be repaired or replaced. HOSIA contacted SRA to inquire about the feasibility of replacing the bulkhead with a living shoreline on this community property. SRA conducted a site visit with a number of HOSIA board and community members and discussed the process of design, permitting, implementation (construction) and maintenance. HOSIA has decided to work with SRA and that SRA will seek funding and serve as project manager, supervising contractors. More information about living shorelines is below. 

Living Shorelines

Living shorelines create open spaces along a river’s shoreline, mimicking Mother Nature’s natural defenses against erosion. Living shorelines can solve typical erosion problems found on the Severn River. Their design not only protects the shoreline and cliffs from storm and powerboat wave energy, but also rebuilds the natural sandy shoreline that is greatly affected due to storms, rising sea level, and wave energy.

Project Environmental Benefits

  • Maintain protection of communal gathering space from erosion, boat wakes etc.
  • Living shorelines can dampen the energy of wave action from storms and powerboat wakes, deflecting it away from the shore. 
  • They collect sandy material as it drifts along the shoreline and deposit it within the area to be protected.
  • Living shorelines are a natural defense against erosion and a cost effective way to protect it.
  • Decrease harmful effects of flooding
  • Decreased nutrient & sediment pollution in the Severn – smaller and fewer ‘dead zones’ (maybe we even get rid of them altogether!)
  • Native plants will attract pollinators (birds, butterflies, bats and bees)
  • Increased biodiversity
  • Stronger, more resilient environment
  • Provide wildlife habitat

Project Summary

The primary goal of the project is to replace a failing bulkhead with a living shoreline in a way that balances enhanced recreational opportunities with improved water quality and wildlife habitat. Maintaining space for communal gatherings and enhanced water access for swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding, and power craft is critical for project success. The living shoreline should increase rates of denitrification – a natural nitrogen pollution reduction process – and decrease rates of erosion to help improve water quality in the Severn River. Currently, the Severn River has been declared “impaired” under the federal Clean Water Act for nitrogen, phosphorus, sediments and other pollutants. A second goal is to increase habitat and native species biodiversity, and create additional spawning and nursery grounds for juvenile turtles, fish, oysters, as well as native pollinators (birds, butterflies, bees and bats). Lastly, the third goal is to continue achieving all of the previous goals in the face of rising sea levels associated with climate change.

SRA will work with HOSIA to further define project goals and desired outcomes. Further SRA and HOSIA will solicit and select a contractor to design the living shoreline. 

SRA is seeking funding for this project through the Chesapeake Bay Trust (CBT) Watershed Assistance Grant Program (WAGP). SRA will create an RFP and solicit contractor bids for this project according to the federal procurement procedures as required by the grant program. Funding could be awarded in full, in part, or not at all. If unsuccessful, SRA will look for other sources of funding to design, permit, and build these projects, like Maryland Department of Natural Resources Grants Gateway and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Small Watershed Grants program.

SRA’s work for the Severn, including on environmental restoration projects like this one, is only possible because of private donations from our over 500 members. Grants like this one only cover a small fraction of our costs. Every member makes an annual donation and those who give $1000 or more annually become one of our critically important major donors.

Project Design

SRA wants to make sure that the project is something that the community will enjoy (in addition to all the great environmental benefits). Keep in mind that, as with so many things in life, there are trade-offs to consider. We want to understand what you value so the project will reflect those values. So, right now we want your feedback, especially while the project is still in its early stages. Now is the best opportunity to make sure to get it right. Please let me know what you think. You can email me any time, 


  • October 2023 – SRA met with HOSIA for a site visit and discuss project potential and funding possibilities and process
  • November 2023 – HOSIA decided to work with SRA as project manager and provided temporary access to SRA and (potential) contractors for project design. 
  • December 2023 – community meeting with SRA
  • January 22, 2024, 7pm – Community Meeting to discuss project and answer questions
  • March 2024 – Community survey conducted
  • March/April 2024 – potential contractor site visits 
  • April 2024 – contractor bids due, contractor selection, preparation for design/permitting starts
  • September – December 2024 – SRA will submit proposal to CBT for living shoreline and stormwater management design and permitting
  • March 2025 – hear if proposal is funded. If funded, design work begins. If not, identify alternative funding source
  • November 2025 – design work completed, permit applications, begin writing proposal for construction funding
  • March 2026 – proposal submission for construction funding
  • July 2026 – hear if construction is funded, if so, construction begins
  • September 2026 – construction completed, SRA responsible for maintenance for 5 years
  • September 2031 – maintenance responsibility transfers to HOSIA

Ways You Can Help!

Community support is critical to a successful grant proposal. Specifically, there are several ways you can choose to support this project. Any and all are appreciated! 

  1. You can allow SRA and/or its contractors to access a site via your property 
  2. You can pledge to help volunteer with planting and/or maintaining native plants as part of the project’s installation.
  3. You can install a rain barrel or rain garden to capture and slow down stormwater coming off your roof.
  4. Other …. There are lots of ways to be involved. If you have an idea or want to discuss, please reach out!

If you are interested in participating in any of the ways above, please reach out to SRA’s Restoration Manager, Ben Fertig: 

Community Comments, Questions & Concerns

​​Let SRA know your thoughts about the project. We will update this section with how these will be addressed.

Living Shoreline Questions

What will the rocks and vegetation look like?

  • The boulders will be large enough to be immobile against tidal and boat wake energy. A sandy area will also be included. The vegetation can include transition from short native grasses to taller and more salt tolerant vegetation like Spartina to create a small marsh-like area. 

What will the exact extent of the living shoreline be? How far out will the rocks be? What shape will it take?

  • This hasn’t been determined yet and will be defined with the community and the bathymetry (depth), fetch, etc. Based on the community’s visioning (including the kids), it is important to maintain access for a kayak launch and continued access to sandy area.

How will recreational area change? More? Less? Can we add a boardwalk? How will the swim area be affected?

  • Recreational area will stay largely the same. Grant funds prioritize improvements to water quality and habitat and are not really available to increase or enhance recreation or water access. Amenities like a boardwalk are very unlikely to be funded and have not been funded in the past in other communities. The rock sills will dissipate wave energy but will likely only go to wading depth so swimming by the living shoreline may be possible but limited. 

Will the water depth at dock and slip zone change with the living shoreline?

  • The plan is to not impact the dock and slips, as we recognize the importance of these assets for the community. 

The HOSIA beach area along the current bulkhead is deteriorating and there are pockets and large holes that are dangerous for beachgoers. Would it be possible to get some guidance about how we can make the bulkhead area more safe temporarily until the project commences?

  • Cordoning off those areas is probably quickest and easiest. It is unlikely cost-effective to engineer something more robust as a temporary solution. 

There continues to be a strong interest among community members and committee members to see other examples of living shorelines in our area.  Maybe this would be possible in the spring/summer?  In the interim, it would be great to share pictures of the shorelines in a presentation to the community.  I think people are afraid the beach area would become a grassy marsh instead of a beach. 

SRA completed a living shoreline restoration project in West Severna Park a few years ago. We worked with Flood Brothers Co. Other examples of NOAA funded living shorelines are available here: You can also watch the seminar on living shorelines by Dr. Cindy Palinkas, UMCES Horn Point Lab, that we hosted in September. I think she has some photos of living shorelines over on the eastern shore that she has been studying. 



Maybe neighboring communities (e.g. Fairwinds, Whitney’s Landing, and Carrollton Manor) would also be interested in living shorelines. Should we collaborate? 

  • Awesome! Following up, Fairwinds is interested in pursuing a living shoreline but it makes most sense to do so separately. Whitney’s Landing has opted to not pursue this currently. SRA has not heard back from Carrollton Manor. 


What impact will the living shoreline have on fish?

  • Beneficial, actually. Living shorelines provide nursery habitat for juvenile fish, blue crabs and many other species. It will be a popular spot for birds like herons and egrets as well. 


Landscaping Questions

Is it possible to plant more native plants on our HOSIA property near the water, as part of the project?  What is the buffer zone on land that is considered part of the shoreline (how far inland is considered the “shore”)?

  • Yes! Native plants can be included in the living shoreline and in stormwater management. This can also accommodate maintaining a substantial grassy area for community gatherings, recreation, dogs etc. The exact extent and orientation of the living shoreline can be determined iteratively and can fill outward to some extent in shallow area to create high/low marsh. 

Grant Questions

Where will you get funding from?

  • First, we anticipate applying to Chesapeake Bay Trust for the “Watershed Assistance Grant Program (WAGP)” for the design engineering. Getting funding for design is the hardest part and may take more than one attempt. The proposal is due in December each year and we would hear back after about three months. Once we are funded for design and get to “60% Design” (essentially the design is finished and we begin the permitting process), we will apply for construction funding, likely from the MD Department of Natural Resources’ Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund (“DNR Trust”). That proposal deadline is also in December each year and we would hear back in about six months. There are additional possibil

Is the match tax deductible when given from individuals or only when given from the community?

  • Both, I believe, but really you should get in touch with a tax professional. Matching contribution – either financial or in-kind (goods and/or services) – is not required to receive a grant, but grants are generally awarded to projects that do have some form of match. For the proposal, only a pledge for a match is requested. Funds and in-kind match would only be executed if and when the grant is awarded. A community, kid-friendly, planting event could be offered as a part of this match. Financial match would come from HOSIA, but additional letters of commitment stating how individuals will contribute (including financially) will also be helpful. All matching contributions for the design/permitting proposal will also count as ‘leverage’ when we pursue funding for construction, and any additional matching contribution (financial and/or in-kind) for the construction grant will also be viewed favorably by that separate review process. 


Stormwater Management

Stormwater management is also important. Would it be included or separate from this project? There is a pipe (possibly plugged) with an outfall onto the beach. Other drain pipes also lead to the river. An “island” on Oak Rd. could be incorporated. 

  • Possibly. This can be included in the Request for Proposals (RFP) to potential contractors to include in their bid concept and cost estimate. This can be used as a criteria for selecting a contractor. From there, we can determine if it should be included in the same or a separate proposal to Chesapeake Bay Trust. Cost may also be a factor, as the WAGP grant can provide up to $100K.  


Is the county responsible for the stormwater pipe that runs through the community beach? The stormwater pipe does not seem to be functioning properly.

  • We should investigate what it would take to assess the stormwater pipe. County has an easement to handle and would continue to have the easement.


Maintenance Questions

Will there be a transition period for SRA maintenance to community maintenance?

  • SRA will put together an easy-to-read maintenance plan and will provide it to the community. SRA is developing a program to continue maintenance beyond the initial five year period on a contractual basis. Details on this program are not yet available.

Under the Maintenance MOU the community “can’t alter the project post construction (without approval).” Will the living shoreline become county property? How much of the living shoreline area will no longer be the community property?

  • The property, in entirety, remains owned by the community. In effect, this stipulation is the same as any other type of change to private property that would require county approval or permit. Alterations could occur, the County just wants to know about changes to its investment and ensure the project’s longevity.

How is storm damage managed?

  • The living shoreline is designed to dissipate wave energy through a combination of boulders/stones and vegetation. There are observations of less storm damage in areas where living shorelines have been installed compared to where they have not. After storms, you can call SRA for an initial damage assessment and appropriate followup.  


Q: What does the engineer selection process look like?

A: We will create a Request For Proposal (RFP) where we outline the community needs and allow consultants and engineers to place bids with their concept ideas. The community and SRA will select a concept plan that aligns best with their needs. Once the contractor is selected, we will apply to the grants.


Q: What will high tides and storms do to the living shoreline? How is it different from a bulkhead?

A: The rocks and rough marsh grasses will dissipate the energy. The sill will be built tall enough to last against rising sea levels and storms. The dissipation of energy and gentle slope of the living shoreline will minimize the distance water travels landward. In comparison, the bulkhead has no energy dissipation before collision with land, allowing water to splash over the bulkhead. The living shoreline will preserve the beach and shoreline long term while the bulkhead will not.


Q: What about the stormwater?

A: We can incorporate the stormwater pipes into the overall proposal.


Q: Will the beach be available to the community during the construction?

A: It is a little too early to say. Construction is about 2 months. We can delay construction to a season preferred by the community to avoid construction during months community wants access to the beach.


Q: When is the best time to plant the plants?

A: Could be late winter to spring. We do not want to leave the sediment sitting after construction. Planting will happen soon after construction is completed.


Q: What percent of the $19,000 matching funds average are in-kind and cash?

A: Ben does not know. Will get back.


Q: What can we do with the lack of volunteers for the in-kind services?

A: SRA can help coordinate and organize volunteers for the in-kind services. We can plan around a time that works for the community.


Q: How would you go about gathering community requirements for the RFP?

A: Usually there are a few individuals in the community that relays information to the community. SRA encourages you to talk more with your neighbors, get in touch with Catherine, Susanne, and Kat if you have any concerns or questions. Catherine, Susanne, and Kat are planning to create a survey monkey to send around the community to get members to rank what people prioritize. SRA wants to know all the concerns and ideas upfront and early on. There is most opportunity for input early on, there will be fewer opportunities to add changes as the design progresses.


Suggestion: Town hall for the kids? Results can be included in the proposal and will have a powerful impact on the grant proposal reviewers.


Q: Can you take down trees and grade the land into gentle slopes as a form to address the erosion and cliffs?

A: There is so much erosion already so grading land is not ideal. We would want to protect the base of the eroded cliffs so that there are no landslides and more sediment loss. Building out will allow sediment to build at the base of the eroded cliffs which works better than grading.


Q: How are you accounting for sea level rise and water level changes?

A: We can use the NOAA Sea Level Rise Viewer to see areas of the community that would be affected if there is a water level rise of 2.5 ft in the next 50 years.  


Q: Are there any grants for retaining walls for erosion?

A: Depends on who owns the property. Public property has more grant opportunities.


Q: Do you know of opportunities for community gardening and stormwater gardens?

A: There are mini grants for stormwater gardens and rain barrels. Contact Ben if you are interested.


Q: Are there explanations for the big areas of sea grasses last year?

A: Last year was a good year for sea grasses. There are many factors that contributed to the sea grass growth.


Q: How do we prevent phragmites (invasive marsh grass that creates monocultures)?

A: The key is to watch the growth to prevent it from overtaking the native plants. Chemical sprays are ultimately ineffective. SRA has been studying Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC)’s method of solarizing the phragmites that has been effective. This process includes cutting everything down to the root, placing black tarp and staking it over the area to blocks sunlight, and keeping it there until it kills the seeds and root systems. This process allows native plants can come back and do well.


Q: What are the next steps after this meeting?

A: We would love to hear any community concerns and ideas so we can incorporate it into the RFP. Once we draft an RFP, we will send it to the community to make sure it is correct and aligns with what the community wants. Once approved by the community, it will be sent out for bids. 



Check out the google photo album for photos of the sites. Photos will be added to track the progress. Just click the photo below:


1.22.2024 –Living Shoreline presentation Compressed


None to date