Impacted Shorelines Degrade Our Waterways
An eroded shoreline is more than just an eyesore. The soil from eroded shorelines washes into streams and lakes, reducing water clarity and degrading habitat for fish spawning and other bottom dwelling species. Residential runoff which might be filtered by an intact shoreline can wash into bodies of water, impacting water quality dramatically.
Shallow-rooted lawn grasses are easily undercut. Rip rap is a temporary solution, expensive to install and often needing replacement after just a few years.
A Natural Solution
Experts agree that re-vegetating lake and stream shores with native vegetation is the best solution for water quality and long-term shoreline stability. This system replicates the way nature kept shorelines stable and our lakes and streams clean long before the impacts of development. Each shoreline is unique, but typically we propose an upland buffer zone, a semi-wet shoreline zone in the wet soil right along the shoreline, and an emergent plant zone in the shallow water.
In the upland zone, deep roots of native plants slow down and absorb water run-off from the surrounding landscape. Water infiltrates into the ground where it is filtered and cooled, then slowly percolates into the lake or stream through groundwater. The shoreline and emergent zones absorb the energy of the water hitting the shore, slowing water movement and keeping the soil on the shoreline where it belongs.
How It's Done
Installing this shoreline restoration system requires some special techniques and materials. At different stages of the process we may use erosion matting, biologs, rip-rap and buffer strips.
Depending on your unique shoreline, we may recommend regrading with a shallow grade. With a shallow grade and continual plant coverage, the energy of waves or current are spread out over a greater area, rather than all the force of the wave impacting a narrow band along the shore.
Like any living thing, native plants repair themselves when damaged, instead of requiring replacement like rip-rap and retaining walls. This reduces the cost of maintenance in long term. These native shoreline plantings take 2-4 years to become fully established and grow stronger, more stable, and more beautiful with time.
The emergent aquatic plants provide spawning ground for fish and amphibians, rearing ground for pest-controlling tadpoles and dragonflies, and are food for game fish and waterfowl. Butterflies, bumblebees and other beneficial insects are attracted to the flowers in the shoreline buffer zone. Canadian geese are discouraged by tall shoreline vegetation since tall grass could hide predators.
- Why restore your shoreline (UWEX)
- Restore your shore (Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources)
- Sustainable shorelines fact sheet (Indiana Clean Lakes Program)