The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation 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. “Virginia is grateful for this funding from NFWF and EPA.”
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.
Through the project, SEAS will cultivate partnerships across Rural Coastal Virginia and grow collaborative capacity in order to measurably accelerate living shoreline implementation. SEAS will look to these partnerships to formulate a shared vision and strategic plan to implement living shorelines at greater scales and rates.
The agency will also use the funds to document the installation of recently implemented shoreline management projects and build up a cache of new shovel-ready living shorelines projects — complete with engineering designs.
Virginia has embraced living shorelines as the preferred strategy for addressing tidal erosion, putting in place numerous mechanisms to incentivize construction by property owners. Living shorelines are a priority best management practice in the Virginia Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan, Virginia’s blueprint for restoring the Chesapeake Bay. The plan necessitates accelerated action to achieve shoreline management goals for the bay by 2025.
“DCR is extremely grateful to NFWF and EPA for the opportunity to expand our work with living shorelines and bring this important practice to more coastal communities,” DCR Director Clyde Cristman said. “This is an exciting project that will benefit the residents and communities of Rural Coastal Virginia and contribute to the ecological health of the Chesapeake Bay.”
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.
DCR’s SEAS program staff assists landowners with erosion problems on tidal shorelines or non-tidal streambanks and impoundments. The program, based out of DCR’s Tappahannock regional office, is non-regulatory and provides science-based advice on environmentally sound shoreline management solutions. SEAS staff conduct on-site field assessments, provide written recommendations, review designs and plans, and conduct construction inspections.
“The Shoreline Erosion Advisory Service here at DCR is uniquely positioned and prepared to lead this project,” said Darryl Glover, director of the DCR Division of Soil and Water Conservation. “Over the past four years, SEAS has reported on the implementation of shoreline management practices at nearly 1,200 sites, contributing to meeting nutrient and sediment reduction goals in the WIP. There is much work to be done, and this generous grant from NFWF and EPA will boost implementation of living shorelines.”
Scaling up the implementation of living shorelines across Rural Coastal Virginia, in order to achieve WIP goals, will require a well-coordinated, regional collaboration. Key to the project’s success will be continued engagement with partners including Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s Shoreline Studies Program, Virginia Sea Grant’s Commonwealth Coastal and Marine Policy Fellowship, Potomac Watershed Roundtable, Rappahannock River Roundtable, York River and Small Coastal Basin Roundtable, Eastern Shore Watersheds Roundtable, Northern Neck PDC, Middle Peninsula PDC, Accomack-Northampton PDC, Northern Neck SWCD, Three Rivers SWCD, Tidewater SWCD, Eastern Shore SWCD, NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay Office, Friends of the Rappahannock, James River Association, and Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
DCR’s grant is one of 11 recently awarded through NFWF’s 2021 Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grant Program. NFWF and EPA awarded $9.6 million in grants to support innovative approaches to reduce pollution to local rivers and streams, restore habitats, and improve rural and urban communities across the Chesapeake Bay watershed. These projects emphasize partnerships and collaborative approaches as central to effective ecosystem restoration efforts critical to the future health of the bay.
For more information about DCR’s Shoreline Erosion Advisory Service, go to www.dcr.virginia.gov/soil-and-water/seas.