Restoring Shoreline to Improve Water Quality: A Win for Permit Flexibility
The Pines on the Severn Community of Arnold Maryland was dumbfounded when its permit to build a living shoreline to replace a crumbling bulkhead and collapsing banks of Chase Creek was denied by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). Construction of a living shoreline, a natural stabilization technique which recreates habitat and improves water quality, is MDE’s preferred shoreline protection and restoration method. Communities that initiate such plans are usually commended, but the Pines permit was denied due to rigid application of criteria that did not account for site specific factors around which the plan was tailored. The plan includes innovative measures to account for steep slopes and highly erodible soils, and eliminates the need to replace the deteriorating bulkhead at the site.
With the assistance of CLA volunteer attorney, Jesse Iliff, the community filed an appeal in Circuit Court against MDE, claiming MDE’s decision ignored the science underlying the plan, undercut citizen efforts to improve water quality, and violated the Living Shoreline Protection Act of 2008. The Severn Riverkeeper noted that such bureaucratic delays and denials have become a major impediment to restoration efforts and that MDE, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Corps of Engineers must be required to follow their own mandates and issue the permits necessary to help protect and restore the Bay’s waterways.
In an important victory for water quality and permit review flexibility, the judge ordered MDE to issue a permit allowing the construction of a living shoreline. This win paves the way for additional living shoreline projects in Maryland and other Bay watershed states with analogous river and stream restoration programs.