Coastal Resilience Guides Restoration and Collaboration in New Jersey

In light of recent impacts from major storms such as Sandy, Irene, and Jonas along the coast of New Jersey, as well as, increases in sea-level rise and nuisance flooding along the mid-Atlantic, communities are facing growing challenges and a need for solutions that protect both people and nature. Communities faced with making decisions on how to prepare for future coastal hazards in the northeast are becoming increasingly interested in nature-based solutions as alternatives to traditional armored shorelines at the state and local level. However, remaining uncertainty on how best to plan, design, and implement projects such as living shorelines, has prevented their use as a standard practice in the toolkit of coastal decision makers in the state.

TNC lead the development of the Restoration Explorer application on the Coastal Resilience platform as an initial screening tool that provides information on what types of living shoreline techniques could be most appropriate for a specific length of coastline. The tool includes engineering criteria developed by the Stevens Institute of Technology on several living shoreline techniques, as well as, spatial data compiled by Rutgers University. The spatial data includes a number of physical parameters such as: salinity, wave height, shoreline slope, and shoreline change rate, among others, to give users a first look at what living shoreline techniques may be appropriate for a given location. Planning for living shoreline projects has been identified as a common challenge for local managers, and having access to a free online tool is an important step towards getting more projects on the ground.

Carrying logs to build the living shoreline. Photo Credit: Mike Shanahan

To support the development of the Restoration Explorer, TNC led the development of the New Jersey Resilient Coastlines Initiative (NJRCI). The goal of the NJRCI was to support the restoration and enhancement of NJ’s coastal habitats so that natural and human communities are better able to adapt to a changing climate and associated coastal hazards. The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Rutgers University (RU), and Stevens Institute of Technology (SIT), American Littoral Society (ALS), Barnegat Bay Partnership (BBP) and the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary (PDE) worked together with partners throughout the state, and at the federal government, to develop and apply the science behind planning coastal resilience projects that use nature and nature‐based solutions to increase the adaptive capacity of New Jersey’s coastal habitats and, by extension, human communities.

Linwood restoration site. Photo Credit: Jim Wright/LightHawk

After extensive outreach activities by TNC and network partners, 11 living shoreline projects were identified through the use of the Restoration Explorer tool. Each of these projects are now in various states of planning, and TNC is leading the implementation of two projects: a hybrid living shoreline in West Wildwood, NJ that will stabilize a 6 acre salt marsh peninsula, and a bio-log living shoreline in Linwood, NJ that will stem erosion near a popular municipal boat ramp. The tool continues to be used as the foundation for outreach with additional communities. It has also been used as a central component of a recent workshop for municipal decision makers, organized by Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve on incorporating marshes into coastal resilience planning.

New Jersey’s Coastal Resilience work has been wildly successful in both the number of towns and communities that have used the Restoration Explorer tool to identify a living shoreline project, and are now in the process of implementation, but also through the number of partners that have also incorporated the tool into their engagement efforts around coastal resilience planning and project ID. It continues to be a key tool for coastal decision makers as they seek to understand the range of nature-based techniques available for mitigating coastal hazards. Moving forward, the New Jersey team is incorporating new data on back bay marshes being, developed by Stockton University, into the tool. This information will provide decision makers with new tools for assessing the potential of beneficially reusing dredge materials for marsh restoration. Stay tuned for the launch of the updated version of the tool this fall 2017!