Living Shorelines on the Rise on Virginia’s Northern Neck

From time to time I am asked “What is the difference between a living shoreline and a wetland?” The simplest answer is that a living shorelines is a nature-based shoreline erosion control technique that mimics the natural functions of a wetland. Site conditions vary, so there are many combinations of living shoreline designs available to property owners. With proper site selection and installation, these living shoreline solutions are effective erosion control solutions and are generally less expensive to install than rip-rap or bulkheads.

Following the Virginia General Assembly declaration that living shorelines are the Commonwealth’s preferred method of shoreline erosion control, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) began developing a new, streamlined permitting process for living shorelines. The first phase of the program has been completed and the new “Living Shoreline Group 1 General Permit” was approved in July 2015. This expedited permit application for non-constructed living shorelines is free and can generally be obtained within 30 days.

In addition to the new permits, more and more resources related to living shorelines are available to property owners on the Northern Neck:

  • Local shoreline contractors are gaining valuable experience with living shoreline installation and maintenance.
  • The Master Gardener’s Shoreline Evaluation Program (SEP) processed a record number of applications in 2016.
  • The Shoreline Evaluation Advisory Service (SEAS) was re-instated by the General Assembly in 2015.
  • The Virginia General Assembly has approved funding for low-interest loans for living shoreline construction and for property tax exemptions for wetlands and buffer areas. NOTE: These provisions are complicated to administer and are at the discretion of individual counties. They have not yet been implemented in any Northern Neck county.

How can you determine whether or not a living shoreline is the best solution for your property? This is certainly a decision that should be left to the pros, rather than the advice of a well-intentioned neighbor! The photos below represent the combined expertise of an established contractor, a shoreline design consultant and a representative from SEAS.

Living Shoreline on North Yeocomico River - July 2016 (Photo ~ The Wetlands Project)

Living Shoreline on North Yeocomico River – July 2016 (Photo ~ The Wetlands Project)

North Yeocomico Living Shoreline - November 2016 (Photo ~ The Wetlands Project)

Living Shoreline on North Yeocomico River – November 2016 (Photo ~ The Wetlands Project)









Although traditional rip-rap construction might have been an option, the team of experts worked with the property owner to create this beautiful living shoreline on the North Yeocomico River in Westmoreland County. Less than one year into the project, the bank erosion has stopped, trees are stabilized and beautiful wetlands vegetation is filling in the shoreline. During high tide, the water spills through openings between and over the rock sill to nourish the plants and complete the important connection between land and sea.

Additional Information:

Subscribe to the NIMBY Shoreline Network and stay informed!

The Wetlands Project is a Virginia corporation and our mission is to create and strengthen programs that create long-term environmental and economic value for protecting fragile wetland ecosystems. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation

For more information please contact