If you go to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and visit the Inner Harbor Park, you’ll notice some changes taking place. A winding border of rip-rap, sand, and marsh grass are controlling shoreline erosion. Soon, as the plants take over, it will all look as if nature intended it to be that way. It is a new, alternative construction design. It is called a living shoreline.04-july-18

In 2012, grants from the Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA) and the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC) allowed Allen Engineering and Science (AllenES) to develop conceptual designs to address sea level rise for the City of Ocean Springs. The two organizations have collaborated for years to help communities be more resilient to natural hazards. Allen Engineering has the creative talent to think outside of the box; providing unique solutions to common coastal problems.

The concept of living shorelines provides alternatives to stabilizing coastal areas. Traditional construction techniques often destroy the habitat around them. Ironically, while meant to preserve property, they often cause increased erosion. Living shorelines use natural materials and attempt to mimic natural design processes. As time passes, these new techniques can help preserve fragile ecosystems and be more esthetically pleasing.

As AllenES was developing the new designs, the City of Ocean Springs and Jackson County, Mississippi, was fighting shoreline erosion along the banks of Inner Harbor Park. Also, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources had developed an Alternative Shoreline Management Initiative.  With supporting documentation in hand, all involved parties were able to collaborate with the City of Ocean Springs to modify an original, traditional engineering design. The results are already proving to be successful in the modified living shoreline.

Traditional shoreline stabilization methods can be costly to maintain. The City should expect multiple benefits from the alternative living shoreline. Maintenance costs should be much lower and the structure easier to adapt to changing conditions. Residents will have a more pleasing experience in the park. The plants and animals that utilize these fringe habitats will still be around.

To learn more about living shorelines, visit NOAA’s Ocean Service.
To participate in GOMA’s living shorelines working group, join the Habitat Resources Team.
To participate in GOMA’s Coastal Resilience Team, join here.