Restoring Chesapeake Bay with living shorelines

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has received a $1 million grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to expand the implementation of living shorelines in Rural Coastal Virginia to reduce coastal erosion and benefit water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

The grant was awarded by NFWF and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grant Program, a core program under NFWF’s Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund promoting community-based efforts to protect and restore the diverse natural resources of the Chesapeake Bay.

“Living shorelines are critical to restoring the Chesapeake Bay, and to protecting coastal communities from increased flooding and erosion associated with climate change and sea level rise,” Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources, Matthew J. Strickler, said. 

DCR, through its Shoreline Erosion Advisory Service, will use the grant to provide financial incentives for the construction of nearly 1,400 feet of new living shorelines in socially vulnerable areas of Rural Coastal Virginia, a 12-county region that covers the Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula and Eastern Shore.

This region of the Chesapeake Bay watershed covers tidal portions of the Potomac, Rappahannock and York rivers and many smaller coastal tributaries.

A living shoreline is a nature-based approach to shoreline protection that uses native vegetation often in combination with strategically placed sand or rock.

Living shorelines reduce erosion, protect and enhance wetlands, provide an attractive natural appearance, and improve water quality. Living shorelines also provide critical habitats for fish and wildlife. These green infrastructure techniques absorb incoming wave energy and buffer low-lying areas from storm surge, thereby strengthening coastal resiliency in the face of sea level rise.

The project aims to restore water quality in the Chesapeake Bay by preventing nearly 3,500 pounds of nitrogen, nearly 2,500 pounds of phosphorus and more than 2,000 tons of sediment from annually entering the bay and its tributaries.