Our river’s open shorelines are disappearing at alarming rate!

The Scenic Severn River is a treasured cultural, recreational, and economic resource that is important to residents and visitors alike. It won the official designation as “Scenic” due to its natural shorelines, unique crimson cliffs, an abundance of forested areas, and a 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 and oysters.

Unfortunately, a key reason the Severn River was designated “Scenic” is now in peril. Our natural cliffs and open shorelines are under attack as homeowners struggle to control erosion caused by storms, powerboat wakes and stormwater drainage issues.

Homeowners are installing “hardened” shoreline structures at an alarming rate as they to try and combat erosion without fully understanding the real causes of erosion. Even though Maryland law requires that living shorelines should the primary means to combat erosion, many contractors and homeowners erroneously believe that rip-rap revetments – piling tons of rock on beaches – is the only solution.

However, experience and studies now show that these structures are unnecessary and counterproductive. Not only are hard structures overly expensive, they destroy the very beaches and habitats that homeowners are trying to protect.


Living Shoreline Technologies

The Save our Shorelines Tool Kit is designed to assist homeowners in making decisions that enhance and preserve the Severn’s ecology and, by extension, improves their own enjoyment of it and their associated property values.

Given advances in science and technology, far more cost-effective solutions to hardscape shoreline structures are available. These technologies, called “living shorelines,” create open spaces along a river’s shoreline, mimicking Mother Nature’s natural defenses against erosion. These “soft” structures rely on a mix of sand, vegetation, grasses and some strategically placed rock to deflect wave energy away from the shore and provide home to wildlife.

The Save our Shorelines Tool Kit will help educate decision-makers, permit writers, property owners, developers, and contractors about natural shorelines, and raise awareness about technologies that benefit Severn (riparian) ecosystems. They are an innovative and cost-effective technique for coastal management.

Content will include topics such as: overview of living shorelines; benefits of protecting wildlife habitat along the river; cost advantages of living shorelines over hardened structures; how to install a living shoreline; permitting and critical area regulations; case studies; and resources for getting help (i.e. government agencies, lawyers, environmental groups, professionals certified in living shoreline installation, wholesale nurseries such as Environmental Concern, and more).


Severn River Communities, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Critical Area Commission, Maryland Department of the Environment, Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works.


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 and,
  • 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.