A living shoreline is a protected, stabilized coastal edge made of natural materials such as plants, sand, or rock. Unlike a concrete seawall or other hard structure, which impede the growth of plants and animals, living shorelines grow over time.
Natural infrastructure solutions like living shorelines provide wildlife habitat, as well as natural resilience to communities near the waterfront. Living shorelines are sometimes referred to as nature-based, green, or soft shorelines. They are an innovative and cost-effective technique for coastal management.
Living shorelines may replace aging structures, such as an old dock or boat launch. Bays, rivers, and homes on the waterfront are good candidates for this shoreline stabilization technique. Typically, living shorelines are not found on beaches on the open ocean.
To visualize a living shoreline, look at these examples, or visit the national map to find a project near you.
Living shorelines are both beautiful and practical. They add attractive, low-maintenance green space and focal points for people to gather. Their services to the environment—which also benefit people—include purifying water, buffering floods, reducing erosion, storing carbon, and attracting wildlife to habitat.
Evidence shows that during major storms, a living, natural shoreline performs better than a hardened shoreline. People (and animals) who enjoy fishing will appreciate how it supports fish and other creatures.
Living shorelines tend to cost less than hard shorelines, according to Natural and Structural Measures for Shoreline Stabilization, for both installation and maintenance. Installation fees vary from less than $1,000 to $5,000 per linear foot. Maintenance of living shorelines typically costs less than $100 per linear foot annually.
Consult the brochure for factors that influence cost, and for additional resources.
Almost anyone can install some of the simpler techniques of living shorelines. Larger and more complex projects may require the expertise of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
For all projects, consider consulting with a professional who understands permits and approvals, and how to restore local habitats.
View useful resources related to living shorelines.
For living shorelines, consider the permits and approvals involved and the appropriate type of restoration for the habitat. Here are the main steps involved in planning and implantation.
Learn more about the Tools for Planning a living shoreline.