Installing the sills for the Moor Shore Road living shoreline in Kitty Hawk Bay.
Installing the sills for the Moor Shore Road living shoreline in Kitty Hawk Bay.

700′ Living Shoreline Will Renew Marsh and Protect Road

The jury is still out on how successful it will be, but a living shoreline that is being installed to protect Moor Shore Road in Kitty Hawk from the encroaching waters of Kitty Hawk Bay is promising.

Living shorelines are becoming the preferred method for protecting threatened shorelines in areas that border sounds and bays.

The Moor Shore Road project is significant for a number of reasons. The project length is almost 700′, which is quite a bit larger than most living shorelines. What really sets this particular undertaking apart, though, is how it is being funded.

Most of the money for the $270,000 project is coming from a NOAA grant that the North Carolina Coastal Federation received. The Town of Kitty Hawk, concerned about the loss of residents’ property has also contributed and has set aside funds to make up any shortfall. 

Perhaps most interestingly NCDOT is contributing $30,000 for the project. It is the first time the transportation department has helped to fund a living shoreline. Moor Shore Road is a state road and it is possible that NCDOT is viewing this project as a test case to see if this method will be effective in protecting roads in similar circumstance.

The first phase of the project is a series of offset low sills about 10 yards offshore. The installation of the sills is weather dependent, and the Outer Banks winter weather has slowed installation.

Phase two will be planting native reeds and seagrass on the landward side of the sills.

Although hardened structures like bulkheads are effective in some situations, they do have so notable drawbacks. 

Bulkheads work by deflecting wave energy. The energy in the wave does not go away when it strikes the bulkhead; rather, it goes to either side or in some cases, down. As a consequence, after a few years, land on either side of a bulkhead will show significant erosion. Not as common the wave energy finds its way behind the bulkhead and a property owner will be left with a hardened structure and three or four feet of water behind it.

Living shorelines work by dissipating wave energy—spreading it out, would perhaps be another way to describe it. The process is termed a living shoreline because over time the protected water behind the sill will recreated the natural habitat. That natural marsh further dissipates the wave energy.