Step Three: Design Options and Methods

Before Moving Forward...

Prior to planning the design of a living shoreline, a property owner should check with the Texas General Land Office's Permit Service Center (PSC) to determine if the living shoreline will be located within GLO jurisdiction. Contact the PSC

Using what you have learned about your property from both the Living Shoreline Site Suitability Model and the visual site assessment, you can now start to determine which living shoreline option would be the best fit.

Living shorelines are not one size fits all. The living shoreline you build will need to be customized to the specific conditions on your property. Luckily, living shorelines are highly versatile and can be designed to fit your site's individual needs. The Texas General Land Office has identified four main categories of living shorelines commonly used along the Texas coast:

  1. Soft Stabilization: Marsh Grass Plantings
  2. Soft Stabilization Retrofit
  3. Hybrid Stabilization: Submerged Oyster Shell Beds, Reef Balls, Plantings in conjunction with Articulated Blocks or Mats, Riprap, or Breakwaters
  4. Hybrid Stabilization Retrofit

Each type is associated with a specific set of conditions and implementation options designed to reduce erosion, protect the shoreline, and prevent land loss. Note that living shorelines are not always a suitable shoreline stabilization option. The shoreline may have too much wave energy, experience too much erosion, or be too deep to support plantings or other living shoreline options. This does not mean a living shoreline cannot be considered, but caution is encouraged and a site assessment performed by an expert is recommended.

Soft Stabilization

Soft stabilization living shorelines are non-structural in nature and usually involve planting marsh grasses along the existing shoreline without additional “hard” components. This type is especially suited to low-energy environments without strong wave influences or steep shorelines.

Soft Stabilization Options

Marsh Grass Plantings
Coil Logs

Retrofit: Soft Stabilization

soft stabilization retrofit diagram

This technique may be recommended for lower-energy environments where a hard structure such as a retaining wall, bulkhead, seawall, or riprap already exists. Here, the environment would support marsh plantings without an additional nearshore structure being needed to protect the vegetation or shoreline.

Marsh plantings located in front of the structure will provide an additional layer of protection, potentially increasing a bulkhead’s life span by reducing wave energy and cutting down on scouring at the base of the bulkhead or seawall.

See the Materials Needed, Installation Technique, and Durability and Maintenance requirements listed under Soft Stabilization: Marsh Grass Plantings for more information.

retrofit soft stabilization project

Hybrid Stabilization

Hybrid stabilization living shorelines incorporate the materials used in soft techniques with hard features to provide additional erosion protection. These structural features complement natural processes and often help the propagation of shoreline vegetation.

Hybrid Stabilization Options

Sheet Pile Breakwaters
Submerged Oyster Shell Beds
Reef Balls
Articulated Blocks or Mats

Retrofit: Hybrid Stabilization

diagram of hybrid stabilization retrofit

This technique may be recommended in moderate- to higher-energy environments. Here, there is an existing shoreline structure in place such as a retaining wall, bulkhead, seawall, or riprap. There may or may not be existing marsh plantings that need some additional protection from an oyster reef, articulated blocks or mat, breakwater, or riprap.

Retrofits can potentially increase a bulkhead’s life span by reducing wave energy and cutting down on scouring at the base of the bulkhead or seawall.

See the Materials Needed, Installation Techniques, and Durability and Maintenance requirements listed under the Hybrid Stabilization section.

before and after of hybrid stabilization project

Limestone Breakwater with Marsh Planting Installation Before (right) and After (left). Photo: Galveston Bay Foundation


Marsh grasses are often the backbone of a living shoreline project. However, a wider variety of plants can be added to promote habitat diversity and create a more varied and attractive landscape. Native trees, shrubs, and grasses can also be used to hold soil in place, slow erosion, and add critical wildlife habitat, as well as beauty and value to your property.

Plant selection will depend on the project site conditions. It is important you become familiar with the types of plants suitable for your project site. Visit our planting guidance in the resources section for more in-depth information on selecting plants for all parts of your living shoreline.

people planting vegetation on shoreline
Step Four: Engaging With A Professional
A successful living shoreline project often requires the involvement of a shoreline management professional with experience and expertise in designing and installing living shorelines.

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