NBS Guidance

Natural Shoreline Infrastructure: Technical Guidance for the California Coast

About This Guide

Cheng T (Environmental Science Associates), Battalio B (Environmental Science Associates), Newkirk S (The Nature Conservancy), Leo K (The Nature Conservancy), Heady W (The Nature Conservancy), Hayden M (Point Blue Conservation Science), Veloz S (Point Blue Conservation Science), Judge J (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s San Francisco Bay and Outer Coast Sentinel Site Cooperative), Ursell T (California State Parks), and Small M (California State Coastal Conservancy). (2018) Natural Shoreline Infrastructure: Technical Guidance for the California Coast. Funding was provided by the California Natural Resources Agency as part of California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment.

Coastal planners and land owners are struggling with how to respond effectively to hazards posed by climate change. Erosion, flooding, higher-intensity storms and the threat of rising sea levels have often prompted decision-makers to build sea walls, or other forms of armoring. While sometimes effective as barriers in the short-term, more often these measures exacerbate the problems they were meant to solve, by speeding shoreline erosion, destroying wildlife habitat and hindering public access to the coast. Natural Shoreline Infrastructure solutions can be just as effective for coastal protection as armoring, while providing additional co-benefits that grey infrastructure lacks. These approaches work primarily through the strategic placement of structures that mimic nature and work in concert with natural processes to absorb or dissipate the erosive energy of wind, waves or flood waters. Unlike armoring, Natural Shoreline Infrastructure approaches also tend to enhance wildlife habitat and other ecosystem services.

In this book, we begin to provide guidance and design criteria crucial to an informed planning process. This guidance is excerpted from a more in-depth paper, Toward Natural Shoreline Infrastructure to Manage Coastal Change in California (Newkirk et al. 2018) which includes case studies and examples of how to combine local data with the guidelines to appropriately site Natural Shoreline Infrastructure. That research was undertaken as part of a larger portfolio of research conducted for California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment, a multi-agency effort to address California-specific policy questions.

Here, we have synthesized the information most crucial for enabling coastal planners to begin to make informed decisions about how and where Natural Shoreline Infrastructure could work along their coastlines. This guidance draws from lessons learned from dozens of projects implemented throughout
California over the past few decades, many of which were intended as habitat restoration but which also provide shore-line protection.