Feature: Announcing the NH Shoreline Management Stories Series!

By: Brendan Newell, Kirsten Howard, and Cathy Coletti

Shoreline of NH

New Hampshire is looking ahead for opportunities to make our special Seacoast more resilient to sea-level rise and storms. Shorelines – dynamic areas where people love to be – are often at the front line of coastal hazards. New Hampshire’s approximately 235 miles of tidally-influenced shoreline is a hotbed of culture, history, and commerce, and features some of the state’s rarest habitats such as dunes and salt marshes.

To help inform future decisions about shorelines, the NH Department of Environmental Services Coastal Program, the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and the NH Coastal Adaption Workgroup have teamed up to produce a series of stories that takes a closer look at past and current approaches to area shoreline management– a broad term used to describe both structural and non-structural strategies to protect people, property, natural resources, and infrastructure on and behind the shore.

These stories will try to answer a few big questions:

  • What does shoreline management look like on the ground in New Hampshire?
  • What types of information are considered when making decisions about how to protect the shore, and what are the trade-offs?

The first story, Resiliency Taking Root at Hampton Beach State Park,showcases a project that aims to rehabilitate dunes in Hampton and Seabrook, NH.

“The dunes are the first line of protection against storms. They hold down the beaches and protect the homes and businesses behind them,” said Alyson Eberhardt, project lead from the NH Sea Grant/UNH Cooperative Extension.

But dunes cannot recover naturally and build back their sand after a storm without beach grass to anchor down the sand. With climate change comes the risk of more intense storms that have bigger and stronger waves, which threaten both the dunes and the property behind them. Many of New Hampshire’s sand dunes have been destroyed by coastal development and the rest have been loved to death by people unknowingly trampling the grass on their way to the beach.

Left to right: Sage Marquis, Alyson Eberhardt (project lead from NH SeaGrant/UNH Cooperative Extension), Korrin Wein and Haley Eaton help plant a beach grass garden that will be used to replant and help restore sand dunes in the Hampton-Seabrook Estuary this fall.  Photo by Gregg Moore

Left to right: Sage Marquis, Alyson Eberhardt (project lead from NH SeaGrant/UNH Cooperative Extension), Korrin Wein and Haley Eaton help plant a beach grass garden that will be used to replant and help restore sand dunes in the Hampton-Seabrook Estuary this fall. Photo by Gregg Moore

On Earth Day 2015, volunteers planted more than 2,600 beach grass plants in a beach grass nursery garden at Hampton Beach State Park. This impressive volunteer effort was just the first phase of this project, which also includes researchers David Burdick and Gregg Moore from the University of New Hampshire Jackson Estuarine Laboratory. This fall volunteers will help transplant the beach grass grown in the garden to replant and restore trampled dunes at other sites within and near the park.

This beach grass has a big job to do:  hold down the dune with its root system, called rhizomes, and keep the sand from blowing away. Without the plants to hold down the sand, wind and waves erode the dune unhampered.  In addition to their erosion control ability, beach grass gives unique communities of animals, like shorebirds, insects and even rodents, a place to live. Photo by Cathy Coletti

This beach grass has a big job to do: hold down the dune with its root system, called rhizomes, and keep the sand from blowing away. Without the plants to hold down the sand, wind and waves erode the dune unhampered. In addition to their erosion control ability, beach grass gives unique communities of animals, like shorebirds, insects and even rodents, a place to live. Photo by Cathy Coletti

To connect with volunteer opportunities on this and other projects, contact Coastal Research Volunteers Program Coordinator Alyson Eberhardt at 603-862-6709 or alyson.eberhardt@unh.edu.

To learn more about this project, read the full story at NHCAW.org. A new story will be posted each month that showcases an example of shoreline management in New Hampshire. We encourage readers to post thoughts, pose questions, and share your own shoreline stories in the blog comment section. Happy Reading!

PREP is part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program, a joint program between local, state and federal agencies established under the Clean Water Act with the goal of protecting and enhancing nationally significant estuarine resources. PREP is supported in part by an EPA matching grant and is housed within the School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering at the University of New Hampshire.

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