City Prefers Soft Shoreline Over Bulkhead

OCEAN CITY — Bulkheads could be making way for more ecologically friendly and natural looking shorelines as town officials reported this week that the state is leaning toward funding the latter for the foreseeable future.

A new eco-friendly soft shoreline will be constructed on Robin Drive, replacing a decaying bulkhead funded by a no-interest loan in the amount of $308,700 from the Department of Natural Resources and an $8,000 grant from the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. The total project, according to town records, shows that this soft shoreline will cost a little more than $351,000 with the town’s cost being $42,000 of that, and a loan payment to DNR of a little more than $20,000 per year for 15 years.

City Engineer Terry McGean told the Mayor and City Council this week that he had been working with DNR and the Maryland Coastal Bays in recent months to design a more soft shoreline to replace the failing bulkhead that runs along Robin Drive.

“You’ll be seeing a lot more of these popping up, as the state seems to really be leaning toward funding only these types of projects versus your traditional bulkhead,” said McGean. “This project is a little bit more expensive than a traditional bulkhead but the lifespan is much longer, as this should virtually last forever.”

In comparison, replacing the existing bulkhead with a new one would cost the town a little more than $290,000 over the lifespan of the project.

In addition, the council also gave the nod to an optional item in McGean’s design, electing to allow for the construction of a crabbing pier that will extend into the water and create a bit of a tourist amenity.

“I think this is a great idea, and putting a crabbing pier there would be great for the kids …,” said Councilman Jim Hall. “Let’s give it a try.”

Soft shorelines, which are also sometimes known as living shorelines, are made up of a created wetland protected by a low stone sill.  McGean said that it would provide water quality benefits of filtering and nutrient removal, create new habitats and reduce erosion as well.

“Because the soft shoreline creates a habitat for we might be able to get Critical Mitigation Funding as well,” said McGean. “Basically, it will look like a natural shoreline except for the stone wall that will sit largely submerged in the water like a pile of stone that will be sticking up about a foot.”

McGean said some bulkhead projects would be allowed in the future, but he said that wherever applicable, the state is “strongly encouraging these types of ecologically friendly shorelines.”