A living shoreline and wetland enhancement project at Delaware Botanic Gardens in Dagsboro was recently one of four shoreline restoration projects across America that earned a 2022 Best Restored Shores Award by the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association.
The project was developed in partnership among Delaware Botanic Gardens, Delaware Center for the Inland Bays, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Temple University and Sovereign Consulting to improve water quality and habitat by deploying nature-based solutions that stabilize and improve the shoreline and wetland areas.
ASBPA established its Best Restored Shores awards program to recognize and encourage more effective coastal risk management that restores natural infrastructure to address growing erosion, flooding, and related hazards associated with increased storm severity and/or sea level rise.
Living shorelines are effective alternatives to other shoreline stabilization methods like bulkheads or riprap, which harm the habitat by interrupting the connections between water and land. Living shorelines use both natural and nature-based materials to dampen and absorb the energy from wind and waves, protecting the shoreline from erosion while also enhancing coastal habitat. Natural materials in living shoreline designs include vegetation, coir fiber logs, wooden logs and branches, and oyster shells.
Prior to the restoration project, this section of shoreline at the DBG was receding due to erosion and sea level rise, leading to increased flood risk. The nearby marsh was also being flooded by the intruding saltwater, destroying the health of the marsh and killing many of the plants that once grew there. This project stabilized over 300 feet of eroding shoreline, restored 10,000 square feet of tidal wetlands, and removes close to 20 pounds of nutrient pollution each year from Pepper Creek. The project also marked the center’s sixth living shoreline demonstration site across the Inland Bays watershed.
“This project is a great example of mission-compatible nonprofits working together with great creativity and limited resources,” said Ray Sander, Delaware Botanic Gardens president. “It has addressed a serious environmental problem, demonstrated an innovative, replicable solution, and become a favorite attraction for our DBG visitors.”
Since construction was completed in 2020, monitoring has ensured the project's structural integrity and documented expansion of vegetative cover and marsh habitat – even after winter storms and an extended spring nor'easter in 2022 – as well as habitat use by turtles, blue crabs, fish, shorebirds and bald eagles. Its public location, and extensive and creative use of onsite natural materials, together with explanatory signage, make this project a powerful means of educating the public about nature-based solutions for building coastal resilience.
Other best restored shores awards for 2022 were: Lightning Point Shoreline Restoration Project, Bayou La Batre, Ala.; Twin Rivers Park Shoreline Protection and Enhancement, Martin County, Fla.; and Galveston Island State Park Marsh Restoration and Protection Phase II, Galveston, Texas.