As Shoreline Erosion Increases, Solutions Place Importance on Education

Sept. 17, 2021

For erosion control measure installations to go smoothly, company provides guidance 



About the author:

Casey Cittadino is National Sales Director of SOX Erosion Solutions.

There was a time when a violent storm and resulting shoreline erosion were regarded as isolated incidents, not as an ongoing environmental problem affecting homeowners, golf courses and municipalities.

Today, however, shoreline erosion is common as we see rising water levels in bodies of water that aren’t necessarily related to one storm. The problem, of course, is magnified with the increasing numbers of hurricanes and other violent storms that pound away at shorelines, putting many at risk.

These situations result in dangerous conditions. Public parks along rivers have been rendered too dangerous and have closed, depriving people of leisure activities. On golf courses, eroded land poses dangers to players and workers trying to walk or operate heavy equipment on collapsing land. Homes have fallen into bodies of water. 

As the developer of a suite of patented, bio-engineered, environmentally safe living shoreline erosion control systems, SOX Erosion Solutions educates golf course staffs, municipalities, property managers, and homeowners on how to identify problems and select solutions. With the Certified Service Provider recruiting program, SOX  also provides companies with new profit centers. SOX has developed educational programs that guide certified service providers through the installation process. For clients, they provide education on the benefits of a living shoreline compared to hard armored erosion control systems as well as how to connect them to the network of trained installers.

The following are the key issues in identifying erosion and possible environmental damage:

  1. How to identify the problem:
    1. Areas with drastic weather patterns are most at risk, ranging from the frigid Great Lakes to sub-tropical Florida and mountainous North Carolina.
    2. Exposed cable/Internet lines.
    3. Collapsed land causing injuries.
    4. Burrowing animals that weaken land due to exposed shorelines
  2. Damage to the environment and natural habitats:
    1. Grass clippings frequently clog waterways and prevent water flow. This damages habitats and frequently results in dying fish and birds going elsewhere to nest and breed.
    2. High levels of pollutants causing environmental damage.

These issues are relatively common to all jobs. The following examples posed some unique challenges and were successful due to education on how to install and maintain shoreline erosion for best long-term results.

New Orleans City Park a Model For Shoreline Restoration 

New Orleans is known for being below sea level and has historically had major issues when it comes to managing its water bodies from flooding. New Orleans is taking action with the Hazard Mitigation Grant utilizing City Park, a 1,300-acre park. It is the 87th largest and 20th most visited park in the United States. The park, recognized as the archetypal urban greenspace, includes many lagoons and ponds, which have suffered from shoreline erosion from heavy rains and hurricanes, putting residents and workers at risk as land collapses.

In working with Certified Service Professional Cuyler Boad, it was important to convey the sensitivity of restoring shorelines at a public park and specific strategies for installing DredgeSOX.  His New Orleans-based firm Innovative Aquatic Solutions has been deploying invasive aquatic plant removal, shoreline erosion systems, and clean-up activities for years. 

This test project was funded by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and backed by one of their partners, Shell Oil.  The goal of the project was to dredge and deepen the water body, while restoring the eroded shoreline. This project has had many eyes on it from its inception and the city is looking for a replicable solution as there are roughly 11 miles or shoreline (50,000 linear feet).  Additionally, there is a design option to tier the deployment in a staircase capacity, allowing the water body to widen and disperse at a certain height to help mitigate flooding. 

Dredging and deepening the water body is just one piece of the solution as sediment continues to erode away from the shoreline and shallow out the lagoon. It allows the city to repurpose the dredged material, deepen the water bodies, rebuild a beautiful, bioengineered living shoreline in an environmentally responsible way, and most importantly eliminate erosion from continuing. 

The city of New Orleans has applied through FEMA to use the City Park Lagoons as a way to store storm water in the event of emergencies. In a staircase application this could result in roughly 100,000 linear Ft. of protected shoreline.

The education program helped city officials understand issues related to shoreline erosion and its dangers. This allowed them to make educated decisions on solutions that will protect this important amenity..

 They report other advantages that were instrumental in their decision.

  • The dredging process improved water flow, reduced water pollution and created healthy habitats. It also removes years of accumulated leaves, grass clippings, and other decaying organic matter from lake bottoms. 
  • Once in place, the system stabilizes the shoreline as grass, sod, and other vegetation roots through the mesh armoring, establishing a new, healthy greenspace. 
  • DredgeSOX filtrates and improves water flow, creating healthy wildlife habitats, reducing invasive plant species, and improving the natural balance both in the water and out. 
  • The system serves as a sub-surface water filter, reducing phosphates, nitrates and other pollutants from entering the pond. The improved water quality thereby enhances the overall eco-system.

The results have been significant in that the park has reclaimed hundreds of feet of shoreline. 

New Orleans city officials now understand they must keep a close eye on this situation and take steps to restore and reinforce the shorelines that have yet to be stabilized. Keep in mind that shoreline erosion is inevitable since over time constantly fluctuating water levels weaken these areas. 

Restoring Shorelines at Iconic Golf Course

Highlands Country Club is similar to many golf courses in that erosion is an ongoing concern, especially at older facilities. Drastically fluctuating water levels cause this inevitable erosion, resulting in dangerous conditions that also impact aesthetics. Mother Nature has taken its toll on this course, and now, 93 years since its opening, membership is taking steps to repair and restore these shorelines in a way that enhances the golf experience.

The erosion first became noticeable following Hurricane Ivan in 2004, which dropped more than 20 inches of rain on the course and surrounding areas in a little more than 24 hours. This event accelerated shoreline erosion. The club took some measures, which proved to be short-lived. Boulders were placed along the shorelines which only served to hide the erosion. In some instances, these boulders narrowed channels resulting in greater water velocity and more erosion.

Membership and management realized that this erosion would only increase. In some cases, there was less than a foot between lakes and cart paths. While the Highlands Country Club course never had dangerous conditions, membership and staff realized preventive steps should be taken. 

The club selected the DredgeSOX system. The mesh was filled with an unlimited supply of soil sourced from the club’s nearby croquet lawn construction site. The system was secured to the banks to re-create the original contours of the shoreline. Upon installation, the system halted soil erosion and stabilized shorelines using the open-ended containment system.

The first project at Highlands Country Club involved installing the system on a quarter-acre pond. The work was completed in a few days. The club has plans to restore shorelines on several creeks to address erosion ranging from 24 inches to 6-7 feet.

The short-term and long-term impacts include an immediately restored  shoreline, which adds aesthetic value to the property, an improved and enhanced eco-system and a safe experience for members and staff.

Additionally,  sod and other vegetation is planted directly through the knitted mesh, establishing newly rooted vegetation.  

CSPs are taught some of the following installation techniques:

  1. Methods for preparing shoreline for installation
    1. Debris removal
    2. Grading if needed
    3. Most traditional prep (debris removal, grading, and site work) work is not necessary with the system. 
  2. Determine which anchoring systems to use- wooden/steel stakes, concrete eye hooks, bullet anchors, grapple hooks, etc.
    1. Testing the substrate to determine the best anchor to use
    2. Spacing of anchors
    3. How to anchor the system properly
  3. Determine if you can dredge or will the system need to be filled in an alternate way:
    1. Dredge into the system 
    2. Place locally sourced fill into the system
  4. Sculpting the mesh to re-create the  shoreline to the designed slop or grade. 
  5. How to add plantings to the system
  6. Minimal maintenance after installation
    1. Taught how to repair rips or tears in the system

As golf course superintendents and staffs learn more about shoreline erosion through these programs, many are taking additional steps to improve the golf experience. They include:

  • Maintain a buffer to filter nutrients from storm water run-off
  • Reduce frequency of mowing at lake’s edges
  • Direct grass clippings away from lakes
  • Practice good fertilizer management to reduce run-off
  • Establish a 10-foot “no-fertilizer” zone around lakes
  • Encourage native vegetation at the shoreline

Education about these systems and environmental issues are  the keys to success. Shoreline erosion is inevitable so it’s important to educate these parties on the environmental impacts and solutions.  

About the Author

Casey Cittadino