Call them what you want — living shorelines, natural infrastructure, green infrastructure, natural and nature-based features — interest is growing in looking at alternatives to traditional shoreline armoring and ways to more naturally mitigate shoreline erosion.
More and more communities see that they derive multiple benefits from restoring natural infrastructure. Healthy coastal habitats reduce the impact of waves and storm surges, improve water quality, provide habitat for important commercial fisheries, and offer recreation and tourism opportunities that are the foundation for many local economies.
Investing in natural infrastructure is no less important than investing in built infrastructure. It’s not only critical, it’s a win-win. And the sooner that investment is made, the more you benefit from it.
The next issue of “Shore & Beach,” a technical journal published by the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA), focuses entirely on advancing restoration of natural infrastructure — dunes, marshes, mangroves, oyster and coral reefs — and hybrid solutions that use a mix of more traditional hardened approaches with natural infrastructure as a valuable means of preserving our shores and ensuring vibrant coastal communities.
Brought together by the issue’s guest editors — Shannon Cunniff, Director of Coastal Resilience with the Environmental Defense Fund, and Bret Webb, Ph.D., P.E., with the Dept. of Civil, Coastal, & Environmental Engineering at the University of South Alabama — a goal for this issue was to increase the visibility of the expanding set of shoreline solutions involving restoration of natural infrastructure to meet coastal erosion, water quality, and flood risk reduction objectives.
In assembling the articles, Cunniff and Webb stressed three points for communities and coastal advocates to consider when considering natural infrastructure:
1) Multi-disciplinary projects. Successful living shoreline projects require an integration of science and engineering. At a minimum, these projects should be designed with input from coastal scientists, coastal engineers and coastal ecologists.
2) Site-specific requirements. Every living shoreline is unique and must be designed to account for the site specific coastal processes, ecology, regulatory constraints in a manner that best addresses the goals of the project. There is no recipe for a living shoreline and no two projects will be identical, or perform the same.
3) Role of living shorelines. There are many different types of living shorelines and, in some cases, they provide measurable benefits that reduce storm damage. However, the role of living shorelines should be, first and foremost, to facilitate the natural intertidal processes that support shoreline stability and resilience under day to day conditions.
Without concerted action to restore the coast, the nation stands to lose a lot of land and be increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather. Louisiana alone could lose as much as 2,250 square miles of land over the next 50 years – 5% of the state’s land mass, or the equivalent of the state of Delaware. This land loss puts its coastal communities, natural resources and economies at risk. Also at risk are five ports, numerous oil and gas industrial facilities, and transportation infrastructure vital to the economic security of our nation.
“That’s simply the toll in one of many coastal states that are destined to face similar pressures in the future,” said Cunniff. “Louisiana’s 2017 Coastal Master Plan would combat that loss and help significantly reduce damages that could exceed $150 billion over the next 50 years without the plan.
“In addition to reducing risk, investments in coastal restoration and protection will also support nearly 60,000 jobs over the next 10 years. In Louisiana and almost every other coastal state in the U.S., strong coastal economies are dependent upon healthy coastal ecosystems; the two cannot be separated.”
“Regardless of the implications of future climate variability, more people are moving to the coast and with them more investments are made in infrastructure. This means our risk in coastal areas will continue to increase even in the absence of more devastating natural hazards,” said Webb.
“Our coastal states, even the “unsalted” coasts of the Great Lakes, and communities need to develop comprehensive plans for their coasts based on sound science to make headway on protecting vital infrastructure and industries, creating jobs, restoring habitat and investing in our future,” Webb continued. “By having these plans, they will be better positioned to access federal funds and secure private sector support.”
“Shore & Beach” is a peer-reviewed technical journal of coastal management and science published quarterly by the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) since 1933. Founded in 1926, the ASBPA is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that advocates for healthy coastlines by promoting the integration of science, policies and actions that maintain, protect and enhance the coasts of America. For more information, go to www.asbpa.org.
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ABOUT ASBPA: Founded in 1926, the ASBPA is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that advocates for healthy coastlines by promoting the integration of science, policies and actions that maintain, protect and enhance the coasts of America. For more information on ASBPA, go to www.asbpa.org, Facebook or www.twitter.com/asbpa. This information is provided by the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association. For information, to change your email address or to unsubscribe from this list, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. A complete collection of Beach News Service articles is available for media access online at https://asbpa.org/news/newsroom_beachnews.htm.