Grants Allow County Shoreline Demos

BERLIN – Local waterways may see living shoreline demonstration projects installed soon with $400,000 in state grant funds available to local staff.

“MDE (Maryland Department of the Environment) is now pushing living shorelines as opposed to what is considered hardline shorelines,” said Worcester County Administrator Gerry Mason.

Over 50 percent of the Isle of Wight shoreline, for example, has been hardened with bulkheads and rip-rap. Hard shores remove habitat needed by native animals, fish and plants.

Living shorelines, which feature plants and sand fill rather than hard materials, restore habitat, control erosion, filter pollutants and can also cost less.

Comprehensive Planning Director Sandy Coyman, whose department is pursuing the shoreline projects, asked the commissioners to approve $20,000 in matching funds for the grant money, although the grant has not been officially awarded.

The work would not be done on county-owned shoreline, but on privately owned land, Coyman said.

“There would be a match by the private individual. We just haven’t worked that out yet,” said Coyman. “They were made aware of that upfront.”

The county would ask property owners to pay 20 to 25 percent of the project cost. Although 14 property owners would like to take part in the demonstration projects, grant funds would pay for only six projects.

“They are actually very enthusiastic about participating in the program,” said Coyman.

Commissioner Bobby Cowger said he has a problem with using taxpayer dollars to upgrade private property.

“You’ve really increased the value of that property,” Cowger said.

Coyman said the goal is to encourage interest.

“It’s a bit of a demonstration project. There’s not many living shorelines around,” Coyman said. “We’re trying to stimulate interest.”

“While it’s benefiting private residents, it’s also benefiting all of our waterways,” Commissioner Linda Busick said.

Matching funds of $20,000, for six projects, means the county would be paying $3,300 per project out of pocket.

Pocomoke City people don’t want their money going to the north end to expensive waterfront properties, Cowger said.

Snow Hill could host one of the project properties, Commissioner Louise Gulyas pointed out.

Commissioner Judy Boggs suggested getting the grant and asking interested property owners to reimburse the county for the match.