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Embracing sea-level rise with new shoreline guidance

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission just approved new guidelines that will serve as a blueprint for shoreline development moving forward.

NORFOLK, Va. — The Bay Act was first enacted in 1988. It imposes restrictions on property owners and shoreline developers to preserve the natural features of the Chesapeake Bay.

But the legislation didn’t directly address the problem of sea-level rise in a way that can help those developers and property owners until now.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission just approved new guidelines that will serve as a blueprint for shoreline development moving forward.

They essentially require property owners and developers to preserve or create living shorelines instead of hard shorelines lick walls and bulkheads.

How do living shorelines help with sea-level rise? Marshes trap sediment from tidal waters, allowing them to grow in elevation as sea-level rises. Marshes and oyster reefs also act as natural barriers to waves - absorbing, not blocking, their energy.

Hard shorelines, like bulkheads, prevent marshes from performing those jobs, making erosion even worse.