4A.2 Taking back Wetlands

Friday, 13 November 2009: 10:40 AM
Courtney McGeachy, NOAA, VA; and W. Priest

On Saturday, May 20, 2006, the Hermitage Museum Foundation Living Shoreline and Wetland Restoration Project culminated in a volunteer planting. 74 volunteers planted over 5000 plants on a ½ acre Living Shoreline and wetland restoration. The project was a joint effort among the NOAA Restoration Center, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Elizabeth River Project. All of which provided funding and logistical support.

One of the purposes of the project was to demonstrate the effectiveness of “Living Shorelines” as an alternative shoreline protection strategy that provides protection as well as habitat value. “Living shorelines” are designed to only use structures where necessary to modulate wave energy sufficient to allow natural structures and processes, like beaches and marshes, to be able to provide effective shoreline protection. This integration of natural shoreline into the erosion protection scenario has the added benefit of providing habitat for many species of fish and wildlife including killifish, blue crabs, spot, croaker, puppy drum, herons, egrets and ducks.

The Living Shoreline segment consisted of approximately 250 linear feet (LF) of stone breakwater and marsh toe protection together with approximately 600 cubic yards of sand beach fill and the planting of 7500 square feet (sq.ft) of marsh grass, primarily smooth cordgrass, Spartina alterniflora. This protected over 300 LF of shoreline including an historic brick wall surrounding the formal garden at the Hermitage. The next phase involved the removal of a stand of invasive Phragmites australis and replacing it with 5000 sq.ft. of tidal marsh. The last phase involved the removal of 110 linear feet of riprap and approximately 400 cubic yards of debris to restore approximately 7500 SF of tidal wetlands. These marshes were planted with a combination of smooth cordgrass and saltmeadow hay, Spartina patens, depending on the elevation. All totaled, the project restored almost ½ acre of wetlands by removing riprap and debris placed in historic wetlands and providing a “softer” approach to shoreline stabilization that provides intrinsic habitat value as well.

In addition, the location of this demonstration site is a well-used public venue that will provide increased exposure for this type of shoreline strategy and, hopefully, result in more widespread implementation. The wetland plantings are being enhanced by a riparian garden buffer area that will showcase native plants as shoreline landscaping alternatives. All of the above activities have been complemented by a boardwalk and interpretative signage that greatly expands and enhances the educational opportunities available at the Hermitage Museum. The Hermitage restoration site will also be a test site for a live broadcast outreach project called Chesapeake Live!.

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