South Carolina Produces Award-Winning Report on Living Shorelines

The Takeaway: Data, case studies, and a decision tree will improve regulations, the permitting process, and the ability of homeowners to select effective treatments for various shoreline conditions.

The “green” materials used in living shorelines often minimize erosion and conserve habitat. Until recently, South Carolina lacked two things needed to encourage their use: an easy pathway to permit living shoreline projects adjacent to private land; and science-based information on how different living shoreline approaches performed under various conditions. An award-winning report will help homeowners choose effective treatments, and it aids the state in streamlining processes and improving standards. Project partners include the ACE Basin and North Inlet-Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserves, NOAA’s Science Collaborative, and South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources and Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management.

The project partners analyzed 62 existing living shorelines and 16 experimental living shorelines, uncovering important findings:

  • In general, living shorelines work best on wide, gently sloping shorelines with firm, coarse sediment. None of the techniques tested were successful on steep banks with slopes greater than 30 percent, or at sites greatly disturbed by waves, currents, or boats.
  • Manufactured wire reefs were the most likely to remain intact and in place for the first one to two years. Bagged oyster shells were second in reliability, coir logs succeeded in about 50 percent of installations, and Curlex Blocs failed at all installations.
  • Oyster growth varied dramatically within the first one to two years, but after that, oysters grew rapidly where the structures for their habitat had been pre-installed.
  • Within one to two years after installation of bagged oyster shells, sediments built up behind the reef, raising the shoreline.
  • At some sites, marsh expanded as early as two to four years after installation of the bagged oyster shells.

The Takeaway: Summary of Living Shoreline Research to Inform Regulatory Decision-Making in South Carolina won an award for exemplary state publications from the South Carolina State Library.

The project team received a grant of $747,916 from NOAA’s Science Collaborative, a program that’s managed in partnership with the University of Michigan. Visit the project page to learn more and access all products. (2020)

Partners: The ACE Basin Research Reserve, Marine Resources Research Institute, National Estuarine Research Reserve System’s Science Collaborative, North Inlet-Winyah Bay Research Reserve, South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ Office of Fisheries Management