State Guidelines: Virginia Waterfront Homeowners Should Use Living Shorelines Whenever Possible
Virginia is asking all waterfront homeowners to think twice before building a bulkhead – in new guidelines issued by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC). The recent directives set “minimum standards for the protection and conservation of wetlands” and “ensure the protection of shorelines and sensitive coastal habitats against sea level rise and coastal hazards”.
The protection and conservation of intertidal wetlands has been part of state policy since the historic Wetlands Law of 1972,
with decisions on individual shoreline project applications administered by local citizen councils currently under consideration by the VMRC.
What is new in this guide is the directive to include protection against sea level rise in the design of any wetland modification that an owner applies for. It stems from legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2020, although implementation has so far been delayed by the downturn in the government apparatus due to COVID. This Virginia Code legislation (§ 28.2-104.1. Living shores; elaboration of a general permit; guidance) “authorizes and encourages the use of living shores as a preferred alternative [emphasis added] to stabilize tidal shores in the Commonwealth.
In addition, “The [Marine Resources] The Commission will only allow living riparian approaches for shoreline management, unless the best available scientific data shows that such approaches are not suitable. If the best available scientific data shows that a living riparian approach is not appropriate, the Commission will require the applicant to incorporate, to the extent possible, elements of living riparian approaches in authorized projects.
“These new guidelines firmly place the wetland authorization process within the framework of Virginia’s Coastal Resilience Master Plan,” said Jay Ford, political and local advisor for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Virginia. “When properly designed and built, living shorelines have shown over the past 20 years to offer major benefits not only in terms of habitat for fish, crabs, oysters, birds and other wildlife, but also in terms of improving water quality and protecting private property against sea level. rise and erosion.
The design of living shorelines is always specific to the conditions of each particular site, but the science of design has advanced considerably, with technical assistance from the Center for Coastal Resources Management at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and the Shoreline Erosion Advisory Service. at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
The more landowners learn about the benefits of clean water, habitat, and resilience that living shorelines provide, and the more entrepreneurs learn the skills to build them, the more the Chesapeake and we who love it will benefit. also.
-John Page Williams