Beyond Coastal Restoration: A Strategy for Making the Texas Coast More Resilient
Habitats along the Texas coast face multiple threats, from storms and oil spills to sea level rise and industrial infrastructure. These threats deteriorate shorelines, marshes, and natural barriers, leaving habitats and communities unprotected. While habitat restoration along the Gulf Coast is critical, environmental solutions and management approaches can be designed to protect these coastal areas, both enhancing the habitat and making the Texas coast more resilient in the long run.
Living Shorelines: Enhancing Coastal Resilience
An innovative technique for achieving long-term coastal stabilization is the creation of living shorelines. This management practice protects and stabilizes the shoreline while providing valuable habitat that enhances overall coastal resilience. Living shorelines have many benefits to both the environment and the community.
Living shoreline projects typically include using native coastal vegetation (through planting or natural re-vegetation) and usually, but not always, a low-lying wave attenuation structure. These structures can take a variety of forms. For example, they can be offshore rock structures parallel to the shore to break waves or perpendicular to the shoreline to trap sediment to form beaches.
The type of material used to construct these structures can vary greatly, from manufactured materials such as precast and processed concrete products to aquatic materials such as oyster bags. Other natural materials can include anything from rock, coir logs, or even trees and woody stem materials. Infrastructure that is made of materials such as concrete and rock provides additional benefits, such as valuable habitat for oysters, clams, fish, and other organisms.
Designing Shoreline Habitats for Long-Term Protection
Anchor QEA has designed and supervised the construction of some of the largest shoreline and wetland restoration and resiliency projects on the Gulf Coast. While every project and design are unique, having a shared vision with each client is crucial for successfully developing a design for any shoreline habitat. To develop a successful shoreline protection design, a complete understanding of the physical and biological processes is critical. Designs may include sediment transport, hydrologic, and hydrodynamic analyses, channel design, wetland site layouts, and planting plans. Once we understand existing conditions and our common goals, we evaluate a variety of factors and approaches to help make decisions about how to achieve habitat protection and restoration.
Ultimately, living shorelines benefit the coast and protect habitat by reducing wave energy and shoreline erosion, buffering the effects of storms, and even connecting diverse animal habitats. While habitat restoration along the Gulf Coast is critical, implementing strategies such as living shorelines is key to making the Texas coast more resilient in the long run.