Those seeking to establish more cost-effective living shoreline projects will encounter an easier permitting process for a wider set of options, thanks to legislation that passed during the 2022 Virginia General Assembly and was signed by the Governor. Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc. (WSSI) worked with the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission and their representatives, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and the bill’s sponsor, Delegate Keith Hodges (R-98th District) to define for the first time the term “other structural and organic materials,” a key point that clarifies which projects are more likely to be eligible for authorization under a Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) General Permit. WSSI offered alternative language to House Bill 1322 during the early stages of the General Assembly that retained the objectives of the Middle Peninsula PDC; HB1322 was further refined with input from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. The final legislation received unanimous support in both the House (100-Y 0-N) and Senate (39-Y 0-N), amending Code of Virginia 28.2-104.1.

Living shorelines continue to grow in popularity for private landowners, public land managers, coastal and site engineers. The original Virginia statute encouraging the use of living shorelines passed the General Assembly in 2011 (SB 964), with a revision in 2020 that prioritized living shorelines as the preferred alternative for stabilizing tidal shores (SB 776). Since then, innovation in materials and techniques had created differing opinions as to their ability to satisfy abbreviated VMRC Group 1 and 2 General Permits for living shorelines, which became available in 2015 and 2017, respectively.

The latest legislation is intended to allow cost-effective current and future innovations in living shoreline products to be utilized in Virginia, while using the abbreviated permitting process. The new legislation also mandates a key provision to safeguard the environment; that these materials be “free from contaminants and shall be adequately secured to prevent full or partial dislodging or detachment due to wave action or other natural forces”.

WSSI staff were instrumental in researching and drafting the alternative language for the bill and provided testimony to address lawmakers’ questions in a hearing of the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources.

Please contact us to discuss your living shoreline project or to find out more about these changes.

Lewis Lawrence, Executive Director of the Middle Peninsula PDC, and his Commission were key proponents of the 2022 legislation. He summed up the situation as follows:

Close to a decade ago, elected officials of the Middle Peninsula directed staff to develop programs and solutions to address chronic flooding and storm challenges that were literally and figuratively eroding the waterfront tax base of rural coastal Virginia. The edict was delivered as don’t let your people drown on your watch. The result was the first in the nation Middle Peninsula Fight the Flood program, an electronic marketplace bringing together those with a flood problem, companies with expertise, and innovative shoreline financing solutions. However, Virginia’s living shoreline statute had a significant and costly omission, the statute could not have predicted how innovation in the nature-based flood mitigation space was adapting to consumer demand, but the statute generally limited techniques to the more costly granite ($650 per linear foot) technique. Most rural coastal homeowners cannot afford $650 a foot. Cost effective solutions exist, solutions that provide the same or better “protection” while enhancing water quality and habitat. Clarifying the “other” section of the statute, allows for more cost-effective shoreline techniques needed to protect the tax base of local governments and provided much needed water quality benefits.


  • Bob Kerr

    Virginia Beach, VA

  • Ingrid Bauer

    Millersville, MD