Add rip-rap to wetlands

Rip-rap (angular stone in various sizes usually larger than two feet in diameter) is generally not recommended because it limits the ability of coastal wetlands to move (or migrate) inland, and also limits the transfer of sediment from uplands that are critical to the long term sustainability of coastal wetlands. It may be possible to use rip-rap to protect property in situations where no other viable alternative is readily available. An individual permit will be required from Maine DEP in order to pursue rip-rap placement adjacent to or within a coastal wetland.

Rip-rap best management practices for placement and construction techniques are available from Maine DEP. Other good resources include the North Carolina Coastal Federation Erosion Control: Non-Structural Alternatives, A Shorefront Property Owner’s Guide, Shoreline Erosion Control Using Marsh Vegetation and Low-Cost Structures, and Maine DEP’s guide for the use of gabions.

Follow the steps below to gain the environmental and regulatory information needed for decision making. The steps are listed in general order although some steps may be conducted concurrently.

1) Contact local, state and/or federal regulatory officials. Individuals experienced with coastal regulations may not need to consult officials in all cases; however, if in doubt seek regulatory advice before proceeding with a project.

2) Obtain an environmental assessment from a certified engineer, coastal geologist, or other qualified professional. In most cases local, state, and/or federal regulators can help direct you to the best professional discipline to assist with your specific project. Sometimes it is helpful to have the consultant completing the environmental assessment and the construction contractor present at regulatory consultation meetings.

3) Evaluate your risk. Check your insurance coverage to make sure you have adequate liability coverage related to loss due to shoreline erosion or flooding, as well as flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program.

4) Develop a mitigation plan if implementation of one or more “best management practices” is recommended. The plan does not need to be prepared by a professional in all cases; however, the quality and clarity of the plan will generally improve the efficiency and timeliness of any subsequent permitting that may be required. Good plans will also benefit the construction contractor and can help prevent costly mistakes.

5) Be Neighborly. If the plan involves work at or near a property boundary, consider sharing the plan with the abutter(s) to make sure they fully understand the work to be performed and the potential impact to their property. This consultation is a courtesy at this stage, and not a regulatory mandate; however, obtaining “buy in” from abutter(s) can potentially avoid neighbor disputes that may lead to costly permitting and/or construction delays.

6) Need a local permit? Share plans with local code enforcement in order to determine what, if any, town ordinances (such as shoreland zoning) may need to be followed.

7) Need a state permit? If the plan involves alterations within 75 feet of highest annual tide (HAT), within or adjacent to another protected natural resource as defined by the Maine Natural Resources Protection Act, or within a development permitted by the Site Location of Development Act, a state permit will likely be required. An individual permit will be needed, since coastal rip-rap projects do qualify for permit-by-rule, and the permit application will have to provide a compelling argument that existing structures on the property are in danger. Alterations to a development or a lot within a development permitted under the Site Location of Development Act may require the revision or amendment of the development’s permit.

8) Need a federal permit? If the plan involves work below the highest annual tide (HAT) and/or in a freshwater wetland or habitat for endangered or threatened species, a federal permit(s) under the Federal Clean Water Act and Rivers and Harbors Act may be required. Share the plan with all applicable federal authorities in order to determine what permits may be necessary.

9) Hire qualified contractors who are experienced with coastal stabilization projects and the implementation of “best management practices.”