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Report identifies institutional barriers to living shorelines, offers solutions

By: Restore America's Estuaries / Published: Jun 19,  2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new report offers a national assessment of barriers that are preventing broader use of living shorelines. The report also provides clear recommendations and strategies to move past these barriers.

Restore America’s Estuaries recently released “Living Shorelines: From Barriers to Opportunities,” which  identifies three major obstacles to broader use of living shorelines:

1) institutional inertia;

2) lack of a broader planning context; and

3) lack of an advocate.

To address these obstacles, the report identifies four broad strategies, including:

1) education and outreach;

2) regulatory reform;

3) improve institutional capacity; and

4) public agencies as role models.

Each strategy identifies a number of specific and actionable recommendations for decision and policy makers.

“We know what we need to do and now it’s time to make progress,” said Jeff Benoit, president and CEO of Restore America’s Estuaries. “Historically we have managed our shorelines by building hard structures like seawalls and bulkheads, which actually cause more erosion and create a false sense of security because when they fail, they increase flooding and risk to lives and property.”

Report authors include five experts in living shorelines policy and management including Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant, Restore America’s Estuaries, North Carolina Coastal Federation, American Littoral Society and Scheda Ecological Associates.

“We’ve been using living shorelines for years because they work to protect shorelines in a cost-effective way,” said Thomas Ries, Executive Vice President of Scheda Ecological Associates and report team member. “We’ve had consistent challenges in getting them on the ground, so this report is critical in finding solutions. Living shorelines are a win-win approach: property owners get the reassurance they want and bays and estuaries are healthier.”

Continuing to place walls around our shorelines, particularly in coastal bays, will end up drowning coastal habitat critical for fisheries production and resulting in a “bathtub effect” where water will simply slosh back and forth. Science shows that a better approach is to use living shorelines to manage shorelines, protecting them from erosion while allowing them to maintain their ecological functions.

Restore America’s Estuaries is the leader of a national alliance of coastal conservation organizations across the country dedicated to the protection and restoration of bays and estuaries as essential resources for our nation.

Living Shorelines: From Barriers to Opportunities” is available online at www.estuaries.org

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