Case Studies of Natural Shoreline Infrastructure in Coastal California

Jenna Judge, Sarah Newkirk, Kelly Leo, Walter Heady, Maya Hayden, Sam Veloz, Tiffany Cheng, Bob Battalio, Tara Ursell, Mary Small
Posted on: 10/16/2018 - Updated on: 12/30/2018

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Sea level rise and erosion are major threats to California’s coast, requiring solutions to preserve the many benefits a healthy coastline provides: flood protection, recreation, habitat for wildlife, water quality and more. Seawalls and other engineered structures, are commonly installed in order to hold the shoreline in place and hold back the ocean; however, they ultimately make the situation worse in most cases by increasing erosion and thus causing already vulnerable shorelines to shrink more.

Natural shoreline infrastructure is an alternative that is more likely to preserve the bene ts of coastal ecosystems while also maintaining coastal access. The California coastline is very diverse, and no single solution will address all the challenges anticipated in the future. While there is a continuum of approaches to address sea level rise and coastal erosion— ranging from fully natural approaches that preserve or restore natural systems, hybrid solutions that integrate engineered aspects into restored or created natural features, and fully engineered structures like seawalls and revetments—property owners and managers don’t typically consider the entire range of options when making coastal management decisions.

To address the gap in familiarity with natural infrastructure and the lack of technical guidance to aid decision-makers and engineers in the appropriate application of different strategies for different situations, this report summarizes natural infrastructure projects for a range of settings in coastal California. Each case study covers the background, permitting, planning, implementation, performance, and key lessons learned from each project in order to provide the critical information needed to implement successful adaptation strategies to address coastal issues, and inspire other communities by highlighting the lessons learned.



Judge, J., Newkirk, S., Leo, K., Heady, W., Hayden, M., Veloz, S., Cheng, T., Battalio, B., Ursell, T., and Small, M. 2017. Case Studies of Natural Shoreline Infrastructure in Coastal California: A Component of Identi cation of Natural Infrastructure Options for Adapting to Sea Level Rise (California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment). The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VA. 38 pp.