Pond will be presenting in-depth discussions at the 14th Annual Georgia Environmental Conference on August 21-23, 2019. Pond Environmental Services Program Manager Stephen Bailey and Senior Project Manager Glenn Martin are leading expert panel presentations covering “Resiliency and Living Shorelines” and reconnecting rivers with “Aquatic Resource Restoration”. Read below for a recent discussion with Pond’s environmental leaders.
How is our natural environment going to change over time? How do we protect human assets while managing resources and maintaining various ecosystems in the face of changing conditions? Communities, industries, and land owners are utilizing newer and more sustainable natural management and design philosophies to protect habitats, resources and infrastructure – creating win-win scenarios for the natural and built environments. Managing and restoring rivers, streams, shorelines, and wetlands for their ecological and societal values is a rapidly growing movement.
Improving the resiliency of our shorelines includes many factors to take into consideration. Engineering is evolving to embrace practices that are both environmentally and economically balanced, and provide sound solutions to meet the human element goals of local communities.
“Many considerations about shoreline deterioration are about protecting human assets such as life and property – where is water going to be and how do we get out of its way? But we also need to focus on salt water. The sea-levels will rise and fall and potentially come inland – what does that mean for our shorelines, for forested areas and wetlands along the coast that may see salt water percentages change?” says Martin. “We need to think of the living shoreline as not just installing
a wall or barrier but building an ecosystem so that if the sea-level fluctuates, there will be a gradient and organic material to buffer a higher flow of water.”
The “old-school” approach was to bring in rocks or install a concrete or wooden barrier to intercept waterflow, sediment and pollution. Instead of building a sea wall, environmental engineers and scientists are creating a gradient with oyster shells, vegetation and natural material that not only creates a better buffer for tidal actions but functions as an intact ecosystem. The traditional wall is replaced by a low-maintenance organic barrier that protects both the shoreline, provides a habitat for fish and crab species, and encourages the natural oyster reef to further develop.
“As part of Pond’s growing environmental practice, we have been involved in a number of projects from the headwaters to the coast that involve reconnecting streams and rivers, restoring degraded wetlands and increasing resiliency in coastal areas,” says Bailey.
Naturalistic design techniques for stream resiliency and restoration comes from engineers and scientists figuring out over time that a natural or seminatural approach is sometimes better than traditional engineering. In the past, dams and man-made lakes were innovative – helping with flood control, irrigation and water storage, while creating recreational facilities and providing hydropower.
As time has passed, some dams have become maintenance nightmares for communities. Dams must pass rigorous federal and state inspections, cost a lot of money to keep functional and pose a threat of loss of life and property if there is a catastrophic failure.
“Through our various project experiences in dam removal, we see increases almost immediately in not only safety and security but in aquatic connectivity for migrating fish and other organisms, as well as aesthetic and economic benefits for communities,” said Bailey.
Restoration and resiliency projects are interdisciplinary approaches – scientists, engineers and hydrologists are working together on these multi-stakeholder issues. Projects that usually affect a public resource such as a river or shore require public buy-in and good communication often with many different stakeholders with different goals and agendas. Because these systems are regulated by federal, local and state governments and frequently involve a public resource, it is important to create a process that engages regulators and stakeholders while meeting project goals, Bailey explains.
“Resilience, restoration and re-connectivity will become the standard, not a trend,” Bailey adds. “These techniques are a win-win approach for people and nature, creating sustainable solutions for a lot of challenges that will benefit future generations while stewarding our natural resources.”