SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
8 May 2014
Volume 15 Issue 5
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Chesapeake Bay Shoreline Restoration and Carbon Offset Project

Rejina Sharma and Lawrence Malizzi, PG Matrix New World Engineering, Inc.

Carbon offset map
Figure 1: Restore the Earth Foundation (REF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

The SETAC North America Board of Directors selected the Chesapeake Bay Shoreline Restoration and Pilot Carbon Offset Project to reduce the carbon footprint created by the SETAC North America 34th Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn. The project is managed by SETAC North America and regional chapter members at Matrix New World Engineering, Inc. (Matrix) in collaboration with the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center (CBEC), formerly known as Horsehead Wetlands Center, Restore the Earth Foundation (REF) and the SETAC North America Chesapeake-Potomac Regional Chapter (CPRC). The project site is located at the CBEC educational facility in Grasonville, Queen Anne’s County, in Maryland (Figure 1).  The project involves stabilization and restoration of approximately 160 linear feet of un-vegetated and severely eroding section of shoreline at the CBEC by utilizing an innovative restorative technology called Bay-Saver Bag™ (Figure 2).

carbon offset
Figure 2: The Bay-Saver Bag™ is a product of Restore the Earth Foundation (REF). It uses the EKO Bag® concept and contains a biodegradable, self-contained package of custom mixed soil with composted humus amendments to support, feed, and stabilize the native plants that are installed in the bags.

The Chesapeake Bay continues to experience severe and rapid wetland and shoreline loss due to a combination of rising sea levels and anthropogenic activities in the bay. The goal of the pilot living shoreline and coastal restoration project is to provide an effective approach to reestablish vegetation across the project’s study area by using Bay-Saver Bags , thereby reducing erosion, promoting sediment accretion, restoring valuable wildlife habitat and sequestering blue carbon (estuarine carbon).

During the SETAC annual meeting in Nashville, the project team presented a poster describing project details and updates. In December 2013, a Tidal Wetlands General Permit application was submitted to the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) Tidal Wetlands Division requesting authorization for implementation of the project.  The project successfully obtained MDE General Tidal Wetland License and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers MDSPGP-4 Category-A authorization.

Carbon offset map

The project planting was organized as a volunteering event on 27 April 2014, which was also the fun recreational “Day On The Bay” of the CPRC annual spring meeting.  The project site was stabilized by installing a double row of Bay-Saver Bags that were planted with three seedlings per bag of smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), a native marsh grass. Approximately 50 volunteers participated in the project planting. The participants included volunteers from CBEC and CBEC's Legacy Institute for the Environment, Matrix, REF, CPRC and students from Goucher College, Towson University and Upper Wye River School, plus others from the community and neighboring townships.  The project also contributed to the local economy by purchasing plants, food for the volunteers and supplies from local vendors.

Carbon offset map

In addition to providing effective shoreline restoration and valuable wildlife habitat, this pilot project will continue to serve as a living classroom. The project is strategically located within close proximity to the CBCE’s arts and education building in order to incorporate instructional components with local educational institutions, which allows students to actively assist in the plantings to establish the living shorelines and with the monitoring of the sites to evaluate the project’s success.

After the first full year, monitoring data and some limited laboratory analysis will be used to estimate the amount of carbon sequestered at the project site. The above-ground biomass will be destructively harvested from random plots and analyzed for total organic carbon (TOC).  The below-ground biomass will be gathered utilizing sediment cores, and the roots will be collected and analyzed for TOC. The results will be extrapolated out to the full size of the project. The calculated number of carbon credits sequestered in plant biomass will be applied against the carbon footprint of the 2013 SETAC North America annual meeting.

The total carbon sequestration potential for the life-time of the project will be extrapolated with the data collected.  An accurate estimation of the credit potential will be provided to SETAC North America following the implementation of the project and the first year of monitoring. A construction completeness report and annual monitoring reports for five years will be provided to the MDE as per the conditions of the MDE Tidal Wetlands General Permit. Pursuant to the MDE Tidal Wetlands Division permit conditions, the site will require five years of monitoring ensuring 85% plant survival.  Monitoring methodologies and reporting protocols will be developed to measure the long-term effectiveness of the Bay-Saver Bags in a shoreline stability application in the Chesapeake Bay watershed areas.

Carbon offset map

Representatives from federal, state and local government agencies have expressed a great interest in this project, and they are looking forward to project’s success so that the Bay-Saver Bag approach can be incorporated in living shoreline projects in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  They believe this method could also be a simple and cost-effective solution for resolving homeowners’ shoreline erosion issues compared to the typical structural stabilization techniques.  The traditional hardening of the shoreline provides minimal or no habitat for living resources and also increases shoreline erosion in neighboring areas.

Carbon offset map

The success of past efforts to restore the project study area by simply planting plugs of native vegetation along the shoreline have had limited success due to the somewhat high wave energy from storms washing away the plants and shoreline.  The innovative Bay-Saver Bag has been selected in place of traditional planting techniques to account for this high wave energy. EKO Bag® technology has already been employed with great success to restore a number of shorelines along Louisiana’s gulf coast, the Mississippi delta and the Florida panhandle. It is expected that this shoreline stabilization technique will experience a high rate of sediment accretion and a rapid establishment of a dense stand of S. alterniflora, thus requiring minimal maintenance during growing and thereby saving on the cost of maintenance. This pilot project will also demonstrate that this shoreline restoration with an application of Bay-Saver Bags™ technology can be successfully adapted to local conditions within the mid-Atlantic region, thus providing a new tool and real-world insights for institutions and organizations seeking to undertake coastal restoration projects in the northeast United States.

Authors' contact information: rsharma@matrixneworld.com and lmalizzi@matrixneworld.com

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