NOAA Guidance for Considering the Use of Living Shorelines

The “Guidance for Considering the Use of Living Shorelines,” developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Living Shorelines Workgroup, represents an agency-wide effort to encourage the use of living shorelines as a shoreline stabilization technique along sheltered coasts. The report describes NOAA’s living shorelines guiding principles and how to navigate NOAA’s potential regulatory and programmatic roles in living shorelines project planning. This guidance also provides a conceptual framework of 12 questions to help NOAA and their partners when planning a shoreline stabilization effort.

This guidance is intended for NOAA staff and partners considering the use of living shorelines across the country. The information provided should be a starting place for understanding NOAA’s roles in living shoreline planning, research, and implementation and for determining whether a living shoreline is appropriate to address shoreline erosion. This may be useful background for those looking to implement a living shoreline at a particular site, but is not a guidance document with design specifications for building a living shoreline.

As described by NOAA, “living shoreline” is a broad term that encompasses a range of shoreline stabilization techniques. While methods may vary, a living shoreline generally incorporates vegetation or other living, natural “soft” elements. These can be used alone or in combination with harder shoreline structures, like oyster reefs or rocks, for added stability. Living shorelines can preserve and improve habitats and their ecosystem services at the land-water interface. Living shorelines reduce erosion while providing habitat value while simultaneously enhancing coastal community resilience by providing additional social, economic, and ecological benefits.

Policy considerations as outlined and answered in the report include:

  • What NOAA authorities need to be considered when identifying objectives for a living shoreline project site?
  • How should living shorelines project planning consider public access and other social contexts?
  • When does NOAA review, consult on, or permit living shoreline projects?
  • Can a living shorelines project be used as compensatory mitigation?
  • What types of support does NOAA provide for living shorelines?

Regarding NOAA’s support for living shorelines, NOAA offers support for three aspects: design and construction; research; and training, technical assistance, and policy development. The existence of ecologically valuable habitat associated with shoreline stabilization enhances the likelihood of funding from NOAA’s habitat-focused programs.


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Publication Date: October 28, 2015

Related Organizations:


  • Coastal
  • Land management and conservation

Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Best practice
  • Policy analysis/recommendations


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