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Norfolk Southern Railway recently completed a sustainability project to reclaim a "living shoreline" along an industrial stretch of the Elizabeth River in Virginia.
The project transformed a stretch of the severely eroded shoreline at the railroad's Lamberts Point terminal into a green oasis in an area where ship repair and port businesses operate. The effort advances environmental, community and business goals, NS officials said in a press release.
"We are restoring habitat that not only beautifies the shoreline and contributes to a healthy river ecosystem, but also will help protect important business assets at our terminal," said Josh Raglin, NS' chief sustainability officer.
NS has worked for years with the Elizabeth River Project, a community nonprofit in Hampton Roads that works to restore and preserve the river. The partnership led to the living shoreline, a "creative business solution" that generates environmental benefits while combating erosion that in the future could threaten access road and track at the Lamberts Point terminal.
The restoration effort along 9 acres of shoreline involved trucking in more than 2,300 cubic yards of sand. A series of small rock breakwaters installed near the shoreline break the energy of waves as they roll toward shore. About 90 cubic yards of recycled oyster shells are layered on the backside of the breakwaters to create a habitat for oysters, known for their ability to clean and purify water.
To help stabilize the shoreline and enhance the "living" part of the project, nearly 24,000 plantings of spartina marsh grass, a native saltwater grass, provide wetlands habitat for fish and other wildlife.
In a region impacted by rising tides, the natural approach will provide better long-term protection and is more cost-efficient than hardening the shoreline with rocks, a common engineering solution of the past, NS and Elizabeth River Project officials said.
"This is one of the region's largest living shorelines created by a business on the river," said Elizabeth River Project Executive Director Marjorie Mayfield Jackson. "For a region that is wrestling with sea-level rise and adaptation, it's really a great model for others on how you can bring back a beautiful, vibrant shore and also contain future erosion."
NS selected Dewberry as the project's design engineer and construction manager. Carolina Marine Structures provided construction services.