In the context of coastal resiliency, I’m pleased to see New York State emphasize natural approaches to erosion control; specifically, advancing guidance that serves as the framework for implementation of “living shorelines” [“Living Shoreline Guidelines Announced By DEC In An Effort To Move Away From Bulkheads,” 27east.com].

The primary purpose of this concept is to “encourage appropriate use of living shorelines in place of hardened approaches for erosion control, because living shorelines offer greater habitat and ecological value than hardened shorelines and revetments.”

While regulatory authorities should foster this concept, as it’s the sustainable approach to sea level rise, these installations are generally conducive for sheltered, low-energy shorelines. The guidance does not apply to large habitat restoration projects, or Coastal Erosion Hazard Areas (large coastal erosion protection projects).

This brings me to my primary point: We must not allow the concept of living shorelines to be hijacked in name to further shoreline hardening.

Case in point: I was astonished to see Suffolk County Parks officials, and their consultant, pitch a prominent bulkhead project at Indian Island County Park on Flanders Bay as a living shoreline. While the project included techniques consistent with living shorelines—revegetation in combination of low profile rock sills to dampen wave energy—inclusion of a bulkhead is the antithesis of coastal resiliency as it will impede shoreline retreat, resulting in the loss of habitat and public access. Fortunately, Suffolk County’s Council on Environmental Quality recognized a wolf in sheep’s clothing and the proposal was reluctantly withdrawn.

With the accelerating rate of sea level rise, the push to armor will become more intense. To the public, eyes wide open. For the agencies, don’t succumb to the pressure. Walls destroy beaches.

Kevin McAllister

President Defend H2O