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Posted 4/19/2018

Release no. 18-017


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the non-profit Delaware Center for the Inland Bays co-hosted an Engineering with Nature (EWN) workshop April 10-12 in Delaware.

A multi-disciplinary team from the USACE Philadelphia District; USACE Engineer Research & Development Center (ERDC); other federal agencies; state government; non-profit; and academia met to discuss Engineering with Nature best practices associated with using vegetation as part of shoreline stabilization efforts. The group also participated in a planting demonstration project at Bubblegum Beach in Sussex County, Delaware.

EWN encourages project planners and engineers to intentionally align natural processes with engineering processes to deliver economic, environmental and social benefits. Collaboration with other federal agencies and non-profit organizations has been a key component of initiatives within the program.

The USACE Philadelphia District became an EWN Proving Ground in 2015, which involves incorporating EWN principles and practices to serve as a model for other Army Corps Districts around the country.

The three-day workshop featured presentations on a number of topics, including vegetative surveying; biotechnical planting; the use of coir logs and coconut fiber; ecological and regulatory considerations; native plants; and discussions on monitoring and future applications.  The 28 participants included planners, regulators, ecologists, environmental resources professionals, engineers, and project managers.  Participating groups included: USACE, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Texas A&M University, and the Delaware Center for Inland Bays.

The demonstration project took place along Bubblegum Beach, a stretch of shoreline located next to the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays facility along the north shore of the Indian River Inlet.  The area was damaged by storms in 2016 and instead of utilizing a traditional rock repair, partners opted for a natural infrastructure approach to stabilize the shoreline. 

An Army Corps crew from the Chesapeake City Project Office placed and graded 40 cubic yards of sand to repair the slope. Then, workshop participants planted 1000 herbaceous plants and 40 shrubs and trees.  Native vegetation was planted in three zones based on elevation and the tidal regime.  Herbaceous species planted in the intertidal zone included salt marsh cordgrass and bitter panic grass, while a variety of shrubs (e.g., beach plum) and perennials (e.g., seaside goldenrod) were planted at the top of the dune.

Mark Eberle, a biologist with the USACE Philadelphia District and one of the workshop organizers, said the demo project was a success.

“Our plantings were quickly tested with a storm in mid-April, but everything seems to have held up well,” he said. “The Center for Inland Bays has been very supportive and offered to do monitoring and watering the plants if we have dry conditions – they’ve been a great partner.”