County Grants Could Lead To More Living Shorelines

SNOW HILL – Waterfront landowners in Worcester County now have a chance at state funding to create living shorelines instead of hard bulkheads along the county’s creeks and bays.

“This is an opportunity for a private property owner to get some matching funds,” said Katherine Munson, a planner for Worcester County.

Properties where the shoreline can be seen by the public or where the owner is willing to grant limited public access would be especially attractive to the county in awarding the matching funds, Munson said.

A living shoreline is essentially a recreated wetland meant to control erosion along a shore that is already or about to be hardened through erosion control methods like rip rap or bulkheading. 

Worcester County plans to create demonstration living shorelines with state funds, beginning with the Gum Point Boat Ramp.

“This project would not come from any of the general funds,” Comprehensive Planning Director Sandy Coyman assured the County Commissioners this week.

The project, expected to cost around $10,000, will be half paid for with state wetland mitigation money with the other half coming from Worcester County’s Atlantic Coastal Bays’ critical area fee-in-lieu fund.

The work at Gum Point Road would involve removal of the 1980s era rip rap currently protecting the shore from erosion, which would then be used to create an offshore sill, an underwater structure to reduce wave energy on the shore.

The shoreline would be enhanced with sand, with tidal grasses planted to stabilize the shoreline. Plants and shrubs would then be planted on the landside of the new patch of wetland.

Other sites in Worcester County will get the same treatment.

“It’s a demonstration project that will in the next year or so install a number of demonstration projects around the county to show property owners an alternative to bulkheading and rip rap,” Munson. “There’s another option available to them to protect their land from erosion.”

The native grasses planted in a living shoreline project harbor young fish and crabs, providing food for wading birds and acting as a nursery for species like the iconic Maryland terrapin and horseshoe crabs which need soft sand beaches to lay their eggs.

“If an area has been rip rapped, they can’t use it,” Munson said.

Property owners can contact the county’s comprehensive planning department for more information.