Atlantic Reefmaker™, Oyster Catcher™, Shell Bags and Bulkheads – A Shoreline Protection Technology Comparison in Emerald Isle, North Carolina

The shorelines of sound-side properties in Emerald Isle, North Carolina have suffered tremendous erosional losses from hurricanes, severe winter storms and, over the past decade, rapidly rising sea levels. In 2005, Hurricane Ophelia devastated the shoreline at 206 Washington Street, prompting the owners to install a bulkhead above the mean high-water line to protect their property. Hurricane Florence (2018) completely destroyed the bulkhead, which was rebuilt, and saltmarsh was planted at the base of the new bulkhead. Hurricane Dorian (2019) badly damaged the planted saltmarsh, which led the owners to seek an additional layer of protection with the installation of a more robust living shoreline. In October 2019, a marsh-toe revetment of bagged oyster shells was constructed along a section of the shoreline, followed in December 2019 with installation of Atlantic Reefmaker™ pile-supported disks as a sill structure along the portion of the shoreline lacking existing Spartina alterniflora marsh. To further enhance wave attenuation and sediment accumulation behind the Atlantic Reefmaker™ sill, Oyster Catcher™ Pillows (made from cement-infused jute erosion control cloth) were abutted up to the shore side of the sill, and in front of a small sill section slightly offshore and spanning the gap between the shell bag revetment and Atlantic Reefmaker™ sill. An additional feature of this site was the installation of a bulkhead just shoreward of mean low water in May 2021 on an adjacent property close to the Atlantic Reefmaker™ sill. Saltmarsh is growing well behind both the bag revetment and disk sill, but oyster growth extends higher into the tide range by ~15 cm on the sill relative to the revetment. This presentation offers a comparative view of the development of oyster communities on these three different reef foundation materials and the accumulation of sediments and saltmarsh community growth shoreward of them.