There are approximately 40 miles of tidally influenced shorelines in Stafford County. Tidal wetlands are lands contiguous to a tidal body of water that lie between mean low water and mean high water. These lands are subject to flooding by normal tides and wind tides.
Healthy shorelines can provide water quality benefits, reduce erosion, buffer floods, support estuarine life, and provide many recreational opportunities. Unfortunately, tidal wetlands, beaches and dunes have been adversely impacted by development and as a result, have encountered significant losses.
For more information on the shorelines of Stafford County please visit Stafford County’s Comprehensive Coastal Resource Management Portal created by VIMS.
What Can I Do If My Shoreline Is Eroding?
If your property is experiencing shoreline degradation there are many resources available to help. This page provides and introduction to shoreline management and potential practices to mitigate shoreline erosion, however you are encouraged to find out more by contacting the following organizations:
- Stafford County’s Environmental Division
- Virginia’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Shoreline Erosion Advisory Service (SEAS)
- Virginia’s Institute of Marine Science (VIMS)
- Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC)
There are many ways to mitigate shoreline erosion, it is always best to seek professional advice and contact the County to understand local and state requirements prior to beginning a project.
You can use the Shoreline Decision Support Tool created by VIMS to get an idea of what mitigation practice may be useful for your sites conditions.
Some mitigation practices include:
- Living Shorelines
- Planting Marshes
- Maintaining or Constructing Offshore Breakwaters
- Maintaining or Constructing Groin Structures
- and Bulkheads
Some property owners may want to stabilize their shorelines to prevent erosion due to wave action. While shoreline hardening techniques, such as the construction of bulkheads was previously allowed, research has shown that this technique can be harmful to the aquatic ecosystem. As a result, the state has mandated that shorelines now be stabilized with living shoreline techniques where applicable. Living Shorelines have been established as the preferred alternative for tidal and shoreline erosion stabilization. More information on living shorelines has been provided below.
Stabilize your Shoreline Using Living Shoreline Management Practices
Living shorelines are stabilization practices that prevent erosion, while protecting, restoring and enhancing shoreline habitat. They are created through strategic placement of plants, stone, sand and other structural and organic materials. The construction of living shorelines is often cheaper than the cost of constructing a traditional hardened shoreline.
Living shorelines offer many benefits:
- Protection from storms and erosion
- Increased ability to absorb wave energy
- Improved water quality
- Increased biodiversity
- Promotion of recreation
- Creation of natural wildlife habitats
- Nutrient pollution remediation
For more information regarding living shorelines please visit the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) webpage on Living Shorelines
- Site analysis: The first step is to determine whether living shoreline stabilization is appropriate in a particular area. This analysis includes an evaluation of the bank erosion rate and elevation, wave energy, prevailing wind and wave direction, vegetation, and soil type. Design of restoration activity begins after the site analysis.
- Permit approval and legal compliance: Compliance with all federal, state, and local laws, regulations, and permits for proposed restoration activities must be ensured prior to implementation.
Projects that are within the waters of the United States, including tidal wetlands may be subject to approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Projects that are below mean low water, within the tidal wetland, sand dunes or beaches, may require review by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. Land disturbances and related construction activities within the tidal wetland often require a wetlands permit in accordance with the County’s Wetlands Ordinance or the County’s Coastal Primary Sand Dune Ordinance.
- Site preparation: This begins only after appropriate permits are obtained from regulatory agencies. The site is cleared of debris and unstable trees, and failing seawalls and bulkheads can be removed. Any runoff issues should also be identified and addressed prior to material installation.
- Installation: Typical living shoreline treatments include planting riparian, marsh, and submerged aquatic vegetation; installing organic materials such as bio-logs and organic fiber mats; and constructing oyster reefs or “living breakwaters” that dissipate wave energy before it reaches the shore.
- Post-construction monitoring and maintenance: This includes scientific monitoring of restored habitat to gather information on the success of the project. Maintenance activities include debris removal, replanting vegetation, adding additional sand fill, and ensuring that the organic and structural materials remain in place and continue to stabilize the shoreline.