Press Release | April 1, 2014

Living Shoreline Team Receives Funding to Develop Design Guidelines, Workshops to Preserve Coast

Mobile, AL—Government agencies, research institutions, and conservation groups are another step closer to creating a streamlined process for Alabama and Mississippi residents and contractors looking to protect against shoreline erosion without the use of harmful bulkheads and sea walls.

Government agencies, research institutions, and conservation groups are another step closer to creating a streamlined process for Alabama and Mississippi residents and contractors looking to protect against shoreline erosion without the use of harmful bulkheads and sea walls.

The Dauphin Island Sea Lab, University of South Alabama, Weeks Bay Reserve, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, Mississippi Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, and the Southern Environmental Law Center are working together under a grant from the Habitat Conservation and Restoration Priority Issue Team of the Gulf of Mexico Alliance to develop design guidelines for living shoreline projects in Alabama and Mississippi.

“It is great that Mississippi and Alabama are working together on this vital coastal issue,” said Larissa Graham, Coastal Training Program Coordinator for the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. “This project will provide consultants with the tools to help property owners along the Gulf Coast protect their shorelines in a responsible way.”

Nearly half of Mobile Bay’s shoreline and large stretches of Mississippi’s shoreline are currently armored with bulkheads and sea walls.  These temporary structures are expensive and can actually accelerate erosion, destroying coastal habitats and valuable ecosystems.

“Living shorelines” are a more natural approach for erosion control that can last for decades, creating a critical aquatic habitat for many species, including shrimp, oysters, and other marine life essential to water and shore health.

The key to living shorelines is reducing wave energy while accommodating for sea level rise and managing sand movement.  This can be done by planting marsh grass and constructing reef breakwaters, helping to enhance the shoreline ecosystem and decrease erosion.

The funding will allow the team to develop design guidelines that property owners and contractors can use to develop living shoreline plans that will work for them. To get the word out about the design guidelines, the team will conduct a series of workshops.

“These guidelines will help residents and contractors better understand the logistics of creating a living shoreline and support decision-making for project locations,” said Dr. Just Cebrian of Dauphin Island Sea Lab.  “By making the process more user-friendly, we are hopeful that coastal residents in both states will be able to learn more about living shorelines in general and what type of project would be appropriate for their area.”

Recently, the groups held workshops that were sponsored by the Sybil H. Smith Charitable Trust and coordinated by the Southern Environmental Law Center to establish a proper definition of a living shoreline and to determine how biologists and ecologists can best work with coastal engineers to develop the most effective living shoreline projects.

“Our team is working hard to create these technical bulletins to give people clarification on what types of technology to consider for their shoreline properties,” said Mike Shelton, Coastal Training Program Coordinator for the Weeks Bay Reserve. “Our goal is to promote increased use of these protection methods by contractors and increased demand by property owners.”

The program is scheduled to be developed by the end of 2014 and technical bulletin workshops for local contractors will be available in March 2015.

Dauphin Island Sea Lab University:

Founded in 1971 by the State Legislature, the Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL) is Alabama’s marine science education and research laboratory. Located on the eastern tip of Dauphin Island, a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, the DISL is surrounded by Mobile Bay, Mississippi Sound and the waters of the Gulf, making it perfectly situated for a wide range of marine science activity. As a marine laboratory, the DISL’s mission encompasses marine science education, marine science research, coastal zone management policy and educating the general public through the Estuarium, DISL’s public aquarium.

Weeks Bay Reserve/Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources:

The Weeks Bay Reserve, a research and education component of Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s coastal lands and waters. Weeks Bay Reserve is part of the NOAA National Estuarine Research Reserve System. To learn more about Weeks Bay Reserve, visit

University of South Alabama:

The University of South Alabama, a diverse and vibrant public university, is making a difference in the lives of the people of Alabama and the nation through teaching, research, service, and health care.

Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve/Mississippi Department of Marine Resources:

The Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR), established in 1999, is managed by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) with a mission “to practice and promote informed stewardship of the Grand Bay NERR and Mississippi coastal resources through innovative research, education and training.” To learn more, visit  

Mobile Bay National Estuary Program:

The mission of the MBNEP is to promote wise stewardship of the water quality characteristics and living resource base of the Mobile Bay estuarine system. We are a non-regulatory program, so we implement the CCMP by bringing together citizens; local, state, and federal government agencies; businesses and industries; conservation and environmental organizations; and academic institutions to meet the environmental challenges that face the unique and imperiled resources that characterize our coastal estuaries. We engage these groups in determining how to best treat the Bay, our associated coastal waters, and their surrounding watersheds to ensure their protection and conservation for our lifetimes and beyond.

Mississippi Alabama Sea Grant Consortium:

The mission of MASGC is to enhance the sustainable use and conservation of ocean and coastal resources to benefit the economy and environment in Alabama and Mississippi. To fulfill this mission, MASGC commits to interdisciplinary environmental scholarship and community-based natural-resource management. The tools available in support of the MASGC mission are applied interdisciplinary research, outreach, education and legal services using both targeted and cross-cutting approaches. These tools are utilized at local, state, regional, national and international arenas.

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Press Contacts

Bill Sapp

Senior Attorney specializing in wetlands and coastal issues

Phone: 404-521-9900