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Sustainable Shorelines Advisory Committee Meeting

January 20, 10:00 am - 3:30 pm
NYSDEC Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve Norrie Point Environmental Center
Staatsburg, NY 12580
Kate Boicourt (NYNJ Harbor Estuary)
Brian DeGasperis (HRNERR)
Heather Gierloff (NYSDEC)
Rick Gilbert (BlueShore Engineering)
Kacie Giuliano (NYSDEC)
Sven Hoeger (Creative Habitat Corp.)
Nordica Holochuck (NYS SeaGrant)
Carolyn LaBarbiera (NYSDOS)
Sarah Lipuma (SCA/HRNERR)
Kristin Marcell (NYSDEC)
Dan Miller (NYSDEC)
Werner Mueller (HDR)

Bill Ottaway (NYSDEC)
Sacha Spector (Scenic Hudson)
Lisa Vasilakos (NYSDOS)
Coordinating Team:
Betsy Blair (HRNERR)
Ona Ferguson (CBI)
Stuart Findlay (Cary Institute)
Emilie Hauser (HRNERR)
Omar Lopez (Stevens Institute)
Jon Miller (Stevens Institute)
Eric Roberts (CBI)

Action Items

Please let Emilie Hauser know about any sustainable shorelines projects that you are aware of
that could be included in the Shoreline Demonstration Site Network.
Please let Stuart Findlay or Jon Miller know if you have any additional thoughts or suggestions
about the draft protocols.

Project Team
• Post meeting slides and handouts on the project website.
• Distribute the list of resources and link to the project website.
The newly re-formed Hudson River Sustainable Shorelines Advisory Committee convened on January 20,
2016 to learn about the fourth phase of the Hudson River Sustainable Shorelines Project, Assessing
Ecological and Physical Performance of Sustainable Shoreline Structures, and to provide early input on
the proposed technical approach and products. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA)
supports this project through the National Estuarine Research Reserve System Science Collaborative. As
with all Science Collaborative-supported efforts, the sustainable shorelines project is user-driven. This
Advisory Committee is comprised of land owners, funders, regulators, natural resource managers,
designers (engineers, landscape architects, restoration scientists, etc.) and land stewards. Sustainable

Shorelines project materials are available at
Welcome, Introductions, and Meeting Objectives
Stuart Findlay, lead researcher for Phase 4, welcomed participants. He commented that Phase 4 is the
direct result of feedback from the Advisory Committee, which indicated that a top priority of the project
should be to construct more sustainable shoreline projects and design and implement monitoring
protocols to determine if sustainable shorelines achieve their intended objectives.
Sustainable Shorelines Project and Phase 4 Overview
Emilie Hauser, project Coordinating Team member, provided an overview of previous phases of the
Sustainable Shorelines project. Phase one, two, and three of the HRSSP focused on ecological and
engineering data collection and analysis. Ecological investigations included a shoreline mapping project
to inventory all of the shoreline types in the Hudson River, an analysis of restoration alternatives, a
literature review of shoreline management approaches, and research on the links between biodiversity
and shoreline structure. Engineering investigations included a literature review, development of a
physical forces model for the Hudson River, a cost analysis of conventional and sustainable shoreline
designs. Phases 1 and 2 of the sustainable shorelines project also included social science studies, a
review of legal frameworks, and surveys to better understand shoreline user perceptions of shorelines.
Drawing on the products and data created by Phases 1 and 2, Phase 3 explored how a set of shoreline
sites weathered hurricanes Lee, Irene, and Sandy to identify the factors leading to site survival or failure.
During these earlier project phases, project participants consistently suggested completing two actions:
first, installing more sustainable shoreline projects, and; second, monitoring the sites to see if they
achieve their intended ecological and physical protection goals. In response to these suggestions, the
project team created the Shoreline Demonstration Site Network, which features sites that incorporate
the principles of sustainable shorelines. Case studies were developed for each site describing the site,
planning and design considerations, and lessons learned. Signage was installed at each site to educate
the public about sustainable shorelines.
Building on the previous phases and especially on the development of the Shoreline Demonstration Site
Network, Phase 4 focuses on the development and implementation of monitoring protocols to identify
whether or not sustainable shorelines achieve their intended goals. The objectives of Phase 4 are to:
1. Create a simple, validated set of metrics targeting key ecological attributes and physical
performance of sites within the Sustainable Shorelines Demonstration Site Network.
2. Train local and regional land stewards to use the tools so they can easily track site performance
into the future.
A long-term objective of Phase 4 is to establish baseline data that can provide shoreline owners,
designers, and regulators with more confidence about the performance of sustainable shorelines. If the
sites successfully achieve their objectives, the data produced during Phase 4 and thereafter could
support the adoption and more frequent use of sustainable shoreline designs.
The expected Phase 4 timeline is:
• Year One (2016): The Advisory Committee provides feedback on the proposed technical
approach and products (this was the goal of this January 20, 2016 meeting). Research scientists
will further refine the protocols based on this feedback and look at failure mechanisms and
Sustainable Shorelines Advisory Committee Meeting – January 20, 2016


design metrics, During the 2016 field season, they will collect preliminary data from the six
refine approaches as necessary.
Year Two (2017): The project team will provide a project update and the Advisory Committee
will provide feedback on draft protocols and approach. The researchers will apply the protocols
in the field, and teach land stewards how to apply the protocols via a webinar. After the land
stewards are trained, they will field-test the protocols at their sites.
Year Three (2018): The researchers will revise and finalize the protocols based on the experience
of land stewards applying them in the field during the previous year. The Advisory Committee
and land stewards will convene via webinar to learn about and discuss the final protocols. The
land stewards and others will apply the protocols to test replicability. A final meeting between
the land stewards and the Advisory Committee will be convened to provide the research team
with feedback on the project’s final products.

Presentation Ecological and Structural Rapid Assessments
Phase 4 lead researchers Stuart Findlay and Jon Miller presented additional detail about the plans for
the project going forward and provided overviews of the draft ecological and structural assessment
protocols. Phase 4 products will include the protocols, training for land stewards to learn to apply the
protocols, a guide book for applying the protocols in the field, and a video describing how to apply the
Both the ecological and structural protocols provide guidance for collecting relatively simple
measurements of important variables that will, if collected, enable people to track shoreline
performance over time. Examples of ecological data to be collected include information about the
physical setting (slope, sinuosity, etc.) and the vegetation (coverage, composition, presence of aquatic
plants, etc.). Examples of structural information to be collected include erosion, wave action, bulk
energy measurements, etc.
Once trained, two land stewards should be able to complete the protocols in a half-day. The
researchers hope to apply the protocols at six initial sites (additional sites are welcomed during the
project if partners are willing to apply the protocols at the site). Phase 4 will collect at least two years of
data. Data from year one may not be usable depending on how much the protocols change between
year one and two.
Ideally, the protocol and resulting data will also capture persistence and changes in features at the
shoreline site but will require long-term data collection by land stewards, beyond the conclusion of this
funded project. Data collected during the Phase 4 project will be compiled into a central database.
While no entity has been identified to provide additional training to land stewards or collect data and
manage the database after the project concludes, HRNERR Estuary Training Program is willing to step
into this role given its decade-long commitment to sustainable shorelines efforts.
Advisory Committee Feedback on the Draft Rapid Assessments
After the overview presentations, committee members worked through the draft protocols in small
groups and applied several of the protocols during a field exercise. In both cases, the groups were
seeking to understand what it would take to collect the data as currently drafted and in the case of a
real site (based on paper plans in one case and on an actual shoreline in the other). After the small
group work and field exercises, participants discussed the protocols and provided the following
feedback, which has been categorized and summarized.
Sustainable Shorelines Advisory Committee Meeting – January 20, 2016


1. General impressions on the protocols – Participants collegially discussed and deliberated the pros
and cons and other related issues to consider about a variety of topics. Overall, participants thought
the project was on the right track and they supported the idea of a simple, cost effective way to
monitor site performance. Participants were glad the measurements were simple enough that they
could be collected without a lot of formal training because the simplicity could a wider variety of
people, possibly including high school teachers and students, to collect data. Many participants said
the tools and methods described seem straightforward and easy to apply.
2. Purpose and impact of the protocols – Participants suggested clarifying the purpose of the protocols
so that land stewards understand why they should collect the information, how the data might be
used (by them or others), and what could be the result of their efforts. One way to clarify the
purpose might be to include in the guidance materials a list of several ways the data could be used
or applied. Another way might be to explain that the value of the project is not in the individual
measurements; instead it is in the ability of a series of individual measurements to show trends over
time. Participants identified the following potential purposes which confirmed the project team’s
• To identify if a site or a portion of a site fails or succeeds
• To identify early signs or thresholds that may lead to site failure
• To identify ecological changes and potential management actions (e.g. in response to
invasive species).
Participants also commented on the impact of the protocols:
• A participant commented that the structural data might help identify which sites failed, but
the data would not inform site design or identify the reasons for site failure. Jon agreed the
data would not completely illuminate why a site failed and that it would not inform site
design; however, pre- and post-failure data could be combined with modeling to help
discern the cause of site failure. It may also help to focus future research efforts on aspects
of site design that contribute to site failure.
• A participant suggested that it would be useful if Phase 4 work produced an executive
summary-style report containing a snapshot of site conditions on a yearly basis. This type of
report could be replicated for all sites and could provide a way for organizations collecting
data to communicate and showcase the results of their efforts.
3. Proposed revisions to the protocols – Participants suggested the following revisions to the protocols:
 Shorten the protocols – Some thought the protocols were too long. One suggested shortening
them to fit on one page. Suggestions for shortening the protocols included:
• Reduce the protocols to a set of core measurements that must be completed at each
• Only request measurements that provide the most useful data and which cannot be
acquired through other means such as looking up information on publicly available
• Consider whether there should be different types of questions for different types of
shoreline treatments. For example, maybe wave measurements are only required at
sites with sills and not required for revetments or simple shorelines. If optional
questions are identified, the researchers could include text describing the additional
value of measuring optional variables to encourage their inclusion.
• Integrate the ecological and structural protocols (which are currently distinct).
 Add questions – In contrast to the goal of shortening the protocols, some suggested adding
Sustainable Shorelines Advisory Committee Meeting – January 20, 2016


Questions could be added to record wildlife observations. However, some suggested
that many people collecting the data may not be able to accurately identify wildlife
beyond general categories such as bird, amphibian, etc. Other suggestions for capturing
wildlife data points included recording the distance between the site and a known
corridor or biodiversity hotspot, completing a time delineated effort of wildlife
observations in a specific radius of the site, or completing wildlife observations only if a
particular habitat known to attract a specific creature is present. Stuart noted that the
protocols will not include invertebrate identification.
• Questions could be added to collect information about the percentage cover of invasive
species. Another suggestion was to focus questions on the invasive species of greatest
importance. Stuart said the protocols will include a simple field guide to identify invasive
and non-invasive species and general conditions such as shrub vs. tree vs. grass,
whether or not the site is managed.
• Questions could be labeled optional for the times when a citizen scientist volunteer is
doing the monitoring who may have less expertise than the land steward.
• Consider adding a question to identify when the site was constructed.
• Consider adding photo requirements from specific locations to portray change over
time. Some participants thought this would help to show whether or not sites achieve
the intended objectives and if the site failed or succeeded in the long term.
 Consider using standardized answer choices for the protocols – A participant suggested using
predefined answer choices (e.g., similar to drop down menu of responses in an Excel
spreadsheet) to ensure a consistent level of detail across answers, which would improve
analysis. When standardizing the answers, be sure the groupings of possible answers make
sense and will be helpful (e.g. slope 0-10, 10-45, 45-90). Another person suggested
standardization might allow for comparison across sites (and suggested potentially connecting
to some element of Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observing System), if feasible. On
the other hand, it may be difficult to compare across sites since the goals at each site might be
 Use the U.S. Customary System of measurement instead of the metric system.
4. Suggested guidance – In general, committee members suggested that clear guidance would be
required to help land stewards collect the data after the project concludes. In particular, committee
members requested the researchers provide the following guidance:
• Clearly delineate where researchers intend the protocols to be applied and whether or not
they can be applied in other locations (e.g. the Great Lakes). Stuart noted that it might be
easier to apply the physical protocols in other locations than it would be to apply the
ecological protocols; local validation of the ecological protocols would be required.
• Consider the types of analysis the data might be used to complete in the future, and provide
guidance on the level of precision to which the data must be collected.
• Clearly define key terms such as segment, transects, control points, etc.
• Describe how to identify or select segments, transects, or control points. For example,
describe how long the segments or transects should be, or where the control points should
be located and how to mark them. Also describe considerations such as how vegetative
growth may impact the segment or transect at a future date, and how to revise the transect
or segment accordingly or continue data collection despite the growth. Stuart noted that
the anticipated segment length is 100 to 300 meters, but possibly shorter depending on the
• Clarify when people should collect the data (number of times per year, season, low-tide,
etc.). Jon noted the hope is that measurements will be completed at low tide; however
water levels vary at low tide, so that doesn’t necessarily make for a standard location.
Sustainable Shorelines Advisory Committee Meeting – January 20, 2016


Consider when and how to direct those applying the protocols to sources of additional data
or information that might be useful (e.g. what to do or who to contact if a problem is
Include visual aids to describe concepts and approaches to be applied in the field. Consider
developing a laminated “visual cookbook” to serve as field guide.
Provide instructions to identify photo points (if added to the protocol) and how to identify
sturdy benchmarks/reference locations that will not move in a large storm event.
Include health and safety protocols.

5. Implementation – Committee members said the protocols must be easily completed if it is expected
that land stewards will collect the data voluntarily. Participants offered the following ideas to collect
data for the project in the short-term and to encourage land stewards to collect data using the
protocols in the long-term:
 Create links to other monitoring programs or projects: Participants said the researchers could
possibly partner with organizations or agencies that permit shoreline management actions to
collect additional data points in the short and long-term. For example, the New York State
Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Environmental Remediation could
request that property owners collect and submit relevant data in their annual reports. Similarly,
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requires site owners to monitor a site for three to five years
after a management strategy is implemented and they could possibly encourage shoreline
owners to collect and submit the data. Another potential collaboration opportunity is to partner
with the “Day in the Life of the River” program, which enables high schools students to collect
data with the Hudson River Estuary Program that is then analyzed by Columbia University.
Citizen science groups, “friends of…” groups, or watershed associations, conservation
organizations, municipal open space committees and environmental staff may also be willing to
apply the protocols.
 Clarifying the purpose of collecting data could motivate land stewards to implement the
protocols: For example, land stewards may be more likely to implement the protocols if they will
be able to use the data in some way and describe to their constituents why collecting the data is
useful or how it helps the organization or the environment. One committee member said the
reason his organization would implement the protocols is to trouble spot issues with structures
before the issue becomes catastrophic, and to that end it would be useful if the protocols help
them identify and understand potential problems with the structures. Additionally, they would
implement the protocols because they believe sustainable shorelines contribute to a better
functioning estuary and by completing the protocols he hopes they can document change and
describe what they are accomplishing for the estuary.
 Equipment and tool management – A participant noted that though relatively simple and
affordable, the tools are not common household items and asked where the tools would be
stored if the protocols are implemented by volunteer groups. Another person suggested that
perhaps the Advisory Committee could help to assemble tool kits. Others suggested that
volunteers would step up to buy the low cost tools, similar to how trail maintainers buy the
tools needed for trail maintenance. Stuart suggested that someone who has been trained
should store the equipment.
 Long-term implementation and data management – Participants stressed the need to identify
options for the long-term data collection, storage and maintenance, especially if volunteer
groups will be collecting the data after the Phase 4 project concludes. It will be important to
identify potential organizations that can provide additional training for data collection (likely
including HRNERR). Participants suggested that land stewards may be more likely to collect the
data if they know it is part of a larger effort and that the data will be available in a centralized
database for future use.
Sustainable Shorelines Advisory Committee Meeting – January 20, 2016