Living Shorelines

Living shorelines are nature-based erosion control techniques. Living shorelines are not a new concept, though they are new to Connecticut and the Northeast. As much of the State’s shoreline is armored with hardened structures, there is a growing interest in preserving the natural elements of the shore while also providing protection from erosion.

This interest can be found even within state government; after significant storms struck Connecticut, the CT Legislature passed Public Act (12-101) (2012): An Act Concerning the Coastal Management Act and Shoreline Flood Erosion Control Structures. This Act calls for consideration of alternatives to hard shoreline armament, like living shorelines. With this specific law in place, there is an urgency to fully understand the science and policy issues surrounding living shoreline deployment in Connecticut. CIRCA is actively working in Connecticut and regionally to provide the necessary information to successfully implement living shorelines where appropriate, across the state.

Living shorelines can be an excellent alternative to hard structures at the coast for a variety of reasons. Importantly, hard structures (e.g. bulkheads, revetments, seawalls, etc.) are often damaging to a coastline. These types of structures can increase erosion at the shore, inhibit natural coastal processes, and destroy natural habitat for fish, animals, and plants. Where hard structures ‘fail,’ living shorelines succeed. Living shorelines mimic natural settings and have many positive co-benefits to erosion control, including but not limited to: habitat creation, water quality enhancement, and maintaining natural coastal processes.

Living shorelines are built, and may include some hardened elements (hybrid approaches). See photos for different types of living shorelines.

CIRCA and Living Shorelines

CIRCA’s research projects are intended to better understand the application of living shorelines as an erosion control technique in the State. Little is known on what to site, where to site, or how to site, in terms of the use of this technology in Connecticut. CIRCA will work to advance the general understanding of living shorelines as well technical aspects. As living shorelines are a relatively new erosion control method in the State and region, CIRCA will work to increase public awareness in Connecticut and with regional partners.

CIRCA Research Projects

CIRCA’s current research projects in the area of living shorelines are listed below.

NOAA Coastal Resilience Networks: “Enhancing Coastal Resilience in Connecticut” (CREST)

The NOAA Coastal Resilience Networks: “Enhancing Coastal Resilience in Connecticut” project provided wave information for the harbors in Old Saybrook and New Haven, a review of design guidelines and tools for site assessment of living shorelines, and an online map viewer.

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Scoping of Dredge Material Islands & Wetlands for Green Infrastructure Resiliency

The Scoping of Dredge Material Islands and Wetlands for Green Infrastructure Resiliency Projects Along the Connecticut Shoreline in Fairfield and New Haven Counties project will provide design guidelines and a regulatory framework for creating wetlands from dredge materials in Connecticut to increase shoreline resiliency.

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Advancing High Resolution Coastal Forecasting & Living Shorelines Approaches in the Northeast

The Advancing High Resolution Coastal Forecasting and Living Shorelines Approaches in the Northeast advances northeast regional forecasting for inundation from storms under future sea level rise scenarios and identifies policy barriers and potential solutions for the use of living shorelines in the northeast.

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CIRCA/Restore America’s Estuaries Living Shorelines Conference: “Living Shorelines: Sound Science, Innovative Approaches, Connected Community.” 

On December 1 and 2 living shorelines practitioners from around the country met in Hartford, Connecticut for a first-ever national living shorelines summit. The summit was jointly sponsored by Restore America’s Estuaries and the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation (CIRCA). The event drew nearly 300 researchers, government employees, engineers, students and others, the two-day event covered both the national and regional landscapes. Day 1 had a national focus. Presenters explored groundbreaking science, forward-looking permitting, effective outreach and education strategies, and innovative finance mechanisms. On Day 2 conference participants broke down by region to discuss relevant successes, challenges, and solutions to advance the deployment of living shorelines in their home states.