Originally published by The Southampton Press
January 8, 2018 | By Greg Wehner
The State Department of Environmental Conservation is making a push to use natural erosion control methods to protect the shorelines of New York from storms and the erosion that comes with them.
The department wants to steer people away from using hard structures, like bulkheads, to control erosion. Instead, the DEC’s guidelines point toward the use of organic and structural materials like wetlands plants, oyster reefs, sand and stone.
The organic materials, the DEC says, would be able to help stabilize the shorelines while providing protection to the intertidal zones and improving water quality.
“The recent severity of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and the destruction left in their wake underscores the critical importance of New York’s Living Shorelines Guidance,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a prepared statement supporting “natural solutions” to create a “more resilient” coastline.
Along with steering people to use natural solutions when bolstering the shorelines, the DEC also breaks down the different types of living shorelines, and how to properly permit, maintain and monitor the shorelines.
“New York’s guidance is part of national trends emphasizing the importance of and the value of natural and nature-based features to reduce flooding and erosion risks,” a press release from the DEC read. “Living shorelines and tidal wetlands areas a invaluable for improving water quality, marine food production, wildlife habitat, flood, hurricane and storm control.”
Aram Terchunian, founder of First Coastal Corporation in Westhampton Beach, said his company has been using living shorelines for decades, and the regulations will only make things easier.
Mr. Terchunian has conducted beach restoration projects along the north shore of Long Island, and noted that the living shoreline guidance may not be a fit for all areas. “Matching the problem and the solution is critical, and misapplication is expensive,” he said.
The DEC’s guidelines come nearly four years after Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Community Risk and Resiliency Act in 2014. CRRA was implemented by the state in reaction to trends in climate change. But it’s not the first time the state took measures to protect the wetlands: In 1973, state officials signed the Tidal Wetland Act, which protected tidal wetlands across the state from human activity.
“Some of our most vulnerable species and habitats are located on the coasts, including piping plovers, roseate terns, saltmarsh sparrows, and more,” Audubon New York Director of Bird Conservation Jillian Liner said in a prepared statement. “Living shorelines have the potential to provide habitat and greater ecological value than hardened shorelines and can help protect those irreplaceable species and habitats.”
William Wise, the director of the New York Sea Grant Program, added, “This guidance takes a crucial step forward by informing the public about the benefits of living shorelines, the permits needed for implementing them, as well as maintenance and monitoring concerns, while acknowledging that living shorelines are not appropriate for all areas.”