Social Media Icons DEQ Facebook DEQ Twitter DEQ Instagram DEQ LinkedIn

Virginia CZM Program: 2017 Costal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:VA CZM logo



Virginia Institute of Marine Science 

Project Title:

Targeted Living Shorelines for Virginia State Parks 

Project Description:

The Commonwealth of Virginia owns numerous tidal, waterfront properties along Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries including state parks, natural area preserves, and wildlife management areas.  Many have eroding shorelines and are at risk from coastal hazards.  Previous work funded through the Coastal Zone Management program has determined site information such as shore evolution, shore inventories, and recommended general shore management strategies, all of which will be utilized in this project.

This project seeks to assess coastal hazard risk, determine which sites may be suitable for a living shoreline demonstration project, and develop conceptual plans for shore protection.  Because access to the public is a prime consideration when deciding where to create a living shoreline demonstration site, this project will focus on state parks.  The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of State Parks has been contacted and is fully supportive of this project.  Eleven state parks with over 25 miles of tidal shoreline occur in Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.  This includes Widewater State Park which is undergoing construction of facilities in order to open in the near future and Middle Peninsula State Park which is not presently open to the public.  False Cape State Park will not be included since it is on the ocean coast and geographically isolated, neither condition makes it feasible for a living shoreline demonstration project.

To triage these public properties, a site visit to each park is essential to accurately determine the physical condition of the shorelines at the present time along with site-specific parameters.  A GIS database of these parameters as well as other existing data available such as shoreline change, flooding potential, and presence of submerged aquatic vegetation will be included.  In addition, a limited wave climate assessment will be made.  These parameters will be used to assess each parks shoreline management needs and develop a ranking for shorelines in each park in regard to their vulnerability to coastal hazards, their potential for coastal resiliency, and probable use as a prospective living shoreline demonstration site (Hardaway et al., 2010).

For the three of the 11 parks that have the greatest need and highest potential, site-specific shoreline protection/management plans will be developed complete with conceptual structure design of a living shoreline demonstration project.  Also included in the management plan will be the documentation needed to obtain permits and be considered shovel-ready should funds for construction come available.  To complete this project, three tasks will be performed: 1) Determine site-specific parameters and assess shoreline management need of state park shoreline properties, 2) ranking of state park and selection of sites, and 3) coastal hazard management planning and living shoreline demonstration projects conceptual design development.

Hardaway, Jr. C.S., D.A. Milligan and K. Duhring, 2010. Living Shoreline Design Guidelines for Shore Protection in Virginia’s Estuarine Environments.  Contract report for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s Coastal Zone Management Program Special Report in Applied Marine Science and Ocean Engineering #421. Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary, Gloucester Point, Virginia.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Donna Milligan, 804.684.7596;  

Project Status:

10/1/2017 - 9/30/2018; Project Completed  

Final Product:

Targeted Living Shoreline Management Planning for Virginia State Parks in Chesapeake Bay Summary Report (PDF)  

Project Summary:

Site assessments for 11 state parks (Belle Isle, Caledon, Chippokes, First Landing, Kiptopeke, Leesylvania, Mason Neck, Middle Peninsula, Westmoreland, Widewater, and York River) were conducted using existing GIS data to assess coastal hazards risks and other considerations for each park.  The data include shoreline change, existing shoreline structures, existing aerial and ground photos, birding and wildlife information, habitat and SAV data, facilities, geology, LIDAR, archaeology, aquaculture, and nearshore depths. 

All state parks were visited by boat to assess the shoreline condition with the exception of Caledon and First Landing.  Caledon was assessed by land because the site has a 1,000 ft no motorized boating zone while First Landing was easier to access by land.  GIS-referenced photos were taken to document shore condition.  Shoreline type, bank condition, upland buffer considerations, and condition and effectiveness of existing structures were noted.  In addition, bottom depths and general bottom material type have been determined as needed for site design.

A structure was created to rank the sites to determine which sites would most benefit from a living shoreline project.  Seven parameters were used: erosion rate, threatened infrastructure, public accessibility, TMDL credit potential, if it was in the Park’s master plan, and attendance.  These parameters were ranked either 1, 2, or 3 and totaled for each site.  The top ranked sites with the highest need for a living shoreline were York River, Belle Isle, Westmoreland, and Leesylvania.  Though Westmoreland was slightly higher ranked, Leesylvania was chosen for plan development.  The site at Westmoreland already has a plan in place, and Leesylvania requested a plan for a portion of their eroding shoreline. The Park has motivated local and regional partners who have worked to secure funding for other living shoreline projects needed along the Leesylvania shoreline.

The York River conceptual plan consists of 6 rock sills, sand, and marsh plantings placed along the shoreline near the Visitors Center.  These structures can be phased as funding comes available.  Though much of the Belle Isle shoreline is eroding, the site fronting the picnic area was chosen for a living shoreline demonstration site.  The system consists of 5 rock sills with sand and plantings in front of the marsh on either end of the reach and 2 rock breakwaters with sand fill placed farther offshore.  These will provide a beach for public access.  At Leesylvania, a failing gabion revetment will be replaced with an extension of the existing rock sill project.  Three additional rock sills with sand and plantings will replace the gabion structure and protect the access path along the shore. 

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to or



footer divider
footer divider
footer divider
Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

Some resources on this website require Adobe Reader and Flash Player, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint or Excel. If you wish to receive this content in an accessible format pursuant to Section 508 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. ยง 794 (d)), please call 800-592-5482. In addition, this website includes hyperlinks to websites neither controlled nor sponsored by DEQ or the Commonwealth of Virginia. Links may open in a new window. If you wish to receive content from a website which is neither controlled nor sponsored by DEQ or the Commonwealth, please contact the host of that website directly.

Privacy Statement | Terms Of Use | WAI Compliance | Contact Us