Students from the Chesapeake Bay Governors School (CBGS) Warsaw campus partnered in early May with Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR) staff, and interns from the University of Mary Washington, to build a living shoreline in Richmond County. Over two rainy mornings, students put on their waders, slapped on gloves, and began to construct all the components of a living shoreline project. FOR River Steward Richard Moncure gave a great description of the project. “Living shore-lines are the preferred method of shoreline restoration in Virginia,” he said. “They are designed to minimize erosion on banks and shorelines, re-establish lost bank areas, install native vegetation, and create valuable habitat for fish and wildlife.”

 

Prior to the arrival of the students, and thanks to our friends at Mathews County-based Ready Reef Inc., nine biogenic oyster reef structures, known as “sentinels” and each weighing a ton, had been installed just past “mean low water” to act as a wave break and protect the shoreline from long term erosion. “As a part of this living shoreline, we wanted to promote healthy oyster populations, so we incorporated native oysters, not genetically modified, so they will provide brood stock on adjacent reefs for future harvesting in the area,” said Moncure.

The project spanned 60 linear feet of shoreline, where students created biologs with a special type of machinery known as the “Filtrexx Mini-fx” that fills biodegradable mesh socks with a mix of sand, pea gravel, and compost. These logs lined the shoreline in rows to stabilize the beach nourishment installed by local contractor Earth Resources the day before. After the logs were staked, we worked with students to install 400 native grass plugs, and take a series of measurements using surveying equipment to ensure the components were installed correctly. This project will help control erosion, reestablish wetland vegetation, and remove nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediments, which are the primary impairments of the Chesapeake Bay.

After the project was all wrapped up, Moncure was proud to report, “Our proudest moment was when all the neighbors came over and asked if we could help protect and transform the entire island using living shoreline practices.” Thank you to the Virginia Environmental Endowment (VEE) for funding this and other living shore-line projects in the Tidal Rappahannock River.

By Meredith Palumbo, FOR Restoration Intern

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