Living Shorelines are natural alternatives to hardened structures like bulkheads, seawalls, and riprap.  They create natural breakwaters, dampening wave energy and allowing for fine sediment to settle out behind the living shoreline structures, helping to stabilize the shoreline by slowing down or stopping the process of erosion.

The most common types of Living Shorelines in South Carolina are oyster based.  Larval (baby oysters) require a hard substrate to attach to and grow to create new oyster reefs, larval oysters prefer to settle on oyster shells but will also settle on other suitable hard substrates.  South Carolina oysters are considered “substrate limited” meaning that there are enough wild adult oysters to produce a healthy population of new generations, but there are not enough oyster shell or hard substrate for larval oysters to settle on.  Some proven alternative substrates to promote oyster growth in South Carolina includes Modified Wire Reefs (MWR’s), OysterCastles©, repurposed crab pots, or bamboo and tomato stakes.  Oyster shell is the most natural method but is a limited resource and there is currently not enough to meet the needs for maintaining South Carolina’s harvestable oyster grounds.

Oyster based living shorelines are a great alternative to hardened structures because they are good for the environment creating habitat for numerous fish and invertebrate species, are constantly growing making them resilient to sea level rise and are less expensive to construct and maintain than their hardened counterparts.

There are currently a few non-oyster based living shoreline approaches utilized in South Carolina which include marsh grass plantings (Spartina alterniflora), coir logs, and most recently wattle fencing.  Marsh grass can be planted behind oyster-based Living Shorelines that will grow and expand as sediment accumulates behind a reef.  Coir logs and wattle fencing can be good options for fresh water applications where the salinity isn’t high enough for oyster based options.

Living shorelines in marine environments do require a permit from DHEC-OCRM and stamped drawings. Shoreline Restoration Group can help clients navigate and implement living shorelines from start to finish. Give us a call at 864-934-7922 or email (email@shorelinerestorationgroup.com)  for more information.