Possible Points: 120 points for the element.

Purpose of Element: The purpose of this element is to reward communities that protect or restore shorelines and channels to their natural condition, and allow shorelines to move as they would have in their predevelopment condition. Communities that receive credit for this element do so by banning the use of shoreline armoring structures like riprap, bulkheads, jetties, groins, and gabions. Preserving natural shorelines and channels is essential to maintaining the health of floodplain ecosystems along rivers and around lakes and other water bodies. Natural shorelines and channels provide critical aquatic and riparian habitat for fish, fowl, and other wildlife that depend on these areas for their survival. Natural shorelines and channels are also critical sources of sand and sediments which, when washed into waterways, are deposited downstream. For more information see pages 420-30 - 420-33 of the CRS Coordinator’s Manual.   

Impact Adjustment: Yes. The impact adjustment for this element is calculated by taking the ratio of miles of shoreline in the community that are protected or restored to their natural condition to total miles of shoreline in the community. Total miles of shoreline in the community includes man-made drainage ditches and channels, as well as channels, ditches, and shorelines that have been armored. This impact adjustment must be calculated and mapped. For more information see pages 420-31 - 420-32 of the CRS Coordinator’s Manual. Note that if less than 10% of a community’s shorelines have been preserved or restored to their natural condition, a default impact adjustment ratio of 0.1 should be used by the community.

Potential to Double Count Credit: None.

Degree of Difficulty - Documentation: Low. The documentation required for this element includes an impact adjustment map, copies of relevant community ordinances, and/or records of a project or program that restored some of community’s shorelines to their natural condition and an ordinance, policy or a plan that protects this restored shoreline from armoring into the future.

Helpful Tools and Resources:

1. TNC's Community Rating System Explorer App

Degree of Difficulty - Implementation: Medium. If a community is looking to increase their credit for this element, they may face opposition from developers and shoreline property owners who would like to alter the shoreline on their property. For example, a property owner may want to prevent shoreline erosion by placing riprap or a bulkhead along the shore. While this is a seemingly minor alteration, it has the power to impact naturally occurring processes like erosion and sedimentation, and is associated with loss of beaches and nearshore habitat in coastal areas. Educating developers and property owners on best practices for strengthening shorelines while allowing them to remain in their natural condition could help to overcome this barrier.

Co-Benefits Associated with this Element: Natural shorelines and channels provide several co-benefits including flood risk reduction. A recent study by Narayan et al. 2016 found that nearshore coastal habitats like salt marshes, coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds reduced wave heights by 35-71%, thereby protecting the shoreline from the erosive energy of waves. These naturally occurring habitats are also critical to the health of fish and wildlife (Narayan et al. 2016). Furthermore, for coastal communities, these habitats can be celebrated recreation areas or areas of cultural significance (Narayan et al. 2016). Protection of shorelines in their natural condition, as a result is vital for many coastal communities to ensure they have a viable beach in the future.

In riverine areas, allowing channels to exist in their natural condition is essential to the health of rivers and streams. Natural channels provide a wide range of habitats for aquatic organisms and enhance biodiversity (Task Force on the Natural and Beneficial Functions of Floodplains, 2002). In addition, these channels are able to convey and deposit sediments as they would have prior to human settlement. As a result, water moves sediment from the upper reaches of the rivers downstream, nourishing floodplains with nutrient rich sediments when floods occur (Task Force on the Natural and Beneficial Functions of Floodplains, 2002). Finally both natural channels and shorelines act as critical riparian buffers which help to prevent sediment carried by surface runoff from entering into water bodies, this can help to enhance water quality (Task Force on the Natural and Beneficial Functions of Floodplains, 2002).