SHU’s Living Shoreline Project Selected for Funding by Federal Coastal Resilience Grant Program

News Story: July 19, 2017
Reef balls at Stratford Point

A multi-state project, including a research team from the Biology Department at Sacred Heart University (SHU), was selected for funding to monitor, evaluate and provide recommendations for the design and placement of living shorelines or nature-based infrastructure as part of a $1 million 2017 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coastal Resilience Grant. The grant will be awarded to the Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC) and New England Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Agencies in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut with partners from the Nature Conservancy. An additional $500,000 in matching funds was provided by the partners to undertake the work.

Jennifer Mattei, restoration ecologist and biology professor at SHU, will lead a team of researchers to monitor the Stratford Point Living Shoreline site with sensors and terrestrial LiDar technologies. SHU will collaborate with James O’Donnell, executive director of the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation (CIRCA), and professor of marine sciences at the University of Connecticut. This partnership will result in a modeling effort that will ultimately help coastal communities better manage storm events. The monitoring data will inform how well this living shoreline performs to reduce coastal erosion under real-world conditions, including the storms and ice that we experience in Connecticut. Representatives from CIRCA and the Connecticut Coastal Zone Management program at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection will also participate in the development of regional policy and practice guidance and engagement with regulators, natural resource management, practitioners and the general public on nature-based infrastructure. The funds awarded to support this work in Connecticut total more than $180,000 in grant and matching funds.

“The Stratford Point Living Shoreline will be a model for the use of nature-based solutions to abate wave energy and prevent shoreline erosion in New England,” Mattei said.

The Living Shoreline has utilized reef balls to dissipate waves and allow the newly restored marsh grasses to thrive. Support from current grant work by the SHU coastal and marine science team including the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Connecticut in-lieu Fee Fund will aid in the restoration of the high marsh and dune system behind the reef. The reef balls are concrete structures that have been designed to reduce waves, but also to allow for a continuous connection between the water and the upland shore while also providing habitat for marine life. Data collected from this project will measure how much sediment accumulates around the reef balls and the extent to which the reef ball design and placement reduce wave height. This information will inform the design and construction of living shorelines throughout Connecticut and New England.

“SHU receiving funding from NOAA’s Coastal Resilience Grant will be a win not only for the University, but also for the Town of Stratford,” said Christina Senft-Batoh, conservation administrator for the Town of Stratford. “The Living Shoreline project at Stratford Point has already proven successful in attenuating wave action and reducing coastal erosion. In fact, sediments are now accumulating in the area where reef balls were previously installed. The area landward of the reef balls has provided a stable substrate for restoring stands of saltmarsh cordgrass.”

CIRCA supports the development of nature-based shoreline restoration and has previously awarded $91,000 through the CIRCA Matching Funds Program to Mattei to purchase an additional 273 reef balls at the Living Shoreline site in the fall of 2016, providing an ideal pilot site for this extensive new study.