Coastal areas draw many visitors and full-time residents with their scenic beauty and recreational opportunities, but they’re vulnerable to many stressors. Coastal marshes, which serve as nursery habitats for fish, protect property from storm damage, and store carbon, are already being fragmented and lost due to rising sea levels and erosion caused by waves and boats. Some areas are difficult to access by boat due to sediment accumulation in channels, which can cause boats to become stuck or entirely cut off certain places. Dredging to remove this sediment is expensive and often needs to be performed regularly.
Applying the dredge sediment removed from channels to marshes in order to increase marsh resilience has potential to address both of these issues simultaneously. These “beneficial use” projects can raise the elevation of existing marshes, fill gaps in fragmented marshes, and even create new marsh islands using dredge sediment. However, these projects have not been implemented at large scales due to challenges including coordination between dredging professionals and restoration practitioners and time-consuming permitting requirements.
The Keeping It in the System (KITS) project led by the University of North Carolina and NOAA is developing guidance to make beneficial use projects easier to implement by identifying and designing potential projects in North Carolina and Florida. The Nicholas Institute created a StoryMap to illustrate the need for beneficial use projects from both the dredging and marsh restoration perspectives and introduce the KITS project.