Traditional Shoreline Protection

Appropriate shoreline protection is one of the best ways to protect our property and infrastructure from the impacts of climate change and extreme flooding events.

When water levels are particularly high, shoreline protection gives us a resilient buffer from the encroachment of water and other debris onto our property. 

But what is shoreline protection?

In the Southern region of the Great Lakes, most communities and individual landowners have resorted to what is known as hardened infrastructure as a means of shoreline protection. This involves using structures (usually concrete or other impervious material) to protect the shore from extreme wave action. It is also sometimes referred to as armouring. The Town of Lincoln, for example, used large concrete blocks to protect high-risk roadways from the flooding events of 2015 and 2019.

There are a number of different shoreline protection types that engineers will usually talk about: groynes, revetments, seawalls, and offshore breakwaters. For example, if you take a walk through Charles Daley Park, you will see an armour stone revetment that, if designed well, can be very effective for individual property protection.

Note that there are pros and cons of each type of protection, which require an assessment by a professional, and that they can also be a major investment. As natural causes and human development continue to cause shoreline changes, it is important to select the type of protection that provides the longest-term solution. And remember, hardened protection is only one type of adaptation option. You can also reduce impacts by using soft shore materials to protect the shoreline naturally,removematerial that is increasing erosion (such as some retaining walls), and relocateinfrastructure (such as at-risk buildings and shore structures) inland to a safe setback distance. 

If you're interested in learning more about shoreline protection, The Island Trust’s A Landowner’s Guide to Protecting Shoreline Ecosystems is a great general reference to start with. You can also follow along with our upcoming articles, as we will be publishing more ideas and information about shoreline protection strategies you can put to use for your own property. 

Photo: Seawall protection at Lakeshore Drive, Lincoln