Transforming the Chesapeake Shoreline

NWF's Next Generation Living Shoreline on the Chesapeake Bay

Maryland’s Conquest Beach, situated on a preserve between the Corsica and Chester Rivers, is a shoreline in transition. Over the past month, what was once 1,000 ft. of eroding bank and dead and fallen trees has been quickly transformed into a beautiful sand-and-cobble shoreline. While visitors to the county park are now struck by the expansive views onto the Chester River, it’s actually the sand and stone under their feet that makes Conquest Beach one of the most exciting shorelines in the state.

The National Wildlife Federation, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and Queen Anne’s County have worked with ecological engineer Albert McCullough and Delmarva RC&D to design a living shoreline that not only fits into the natural history of the site, but one that will also fit into its future.

The water level has been rising along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay: current estimates predict sea level rise of over 3 ½ ft. by the end of this century. In order to preserve future habitat for the fish and crabs which depend on marshes along the bay, the National Wildlife Federation is constructing this living shoreline that will reduce erosion, beautify the park, and provide critical shoreline habitat both now and well into the future.

Blue Crab
Blue crab in Maryland donated by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Jason Williams.

The key to this climate-smart design is using a mixture of cobble and sand in the living shoreline. The larger, heavier cobbles will accumulate near the water level of the shoreline, absorbing and deflecting wave energy from wind, storms, and boats. The finer-grained sand will then be pushed up the shoreline and held in place by marsh grass. This process will enable the shoreline to move and shift over time, allowing the upland migration of the shoreline and marsh as sea levels rise.

After the sand and cobble has settled along the brand new shoreline, the National Wildlife Federation and our project partners will work with an army of volunteers to complete the plantings to provide both the residents of Queen Anne’s County — as well as the fish, birds and crabs of the Chesapeake Bay — with nearly a quarter mile of beautiful and natural real estate.

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