Saving Shoreline, Boosting Habitat

Saving Shoreline, Boosting Habitat

Reston Association promotes the use of bio-logs along the shores of Reston lakes.

When Beth Burns moved to Reston last year to a home on Lake Audubon she asked about converting her shoreline bulkheads with bio-logs.

With the help of Reston Association (RA), Burns switched out about a third of her 65-foot shoreline with bio-logs, and now has a lot to show for it. “I’ll call my husband and say, ‘It’s a 15-turtle day,’ or ‘You won’t believe it, it’s a 23-turtle day,’” said Burns.

In June, RA completed a shoreline stabilization project on the Lake Anne Canal using bio-logs, hoping for results similar to what happened on Burns’ property. Cardinal Landscaping, the firm hired to do the installation work, along with oversight from RA staff, implemented the Lake Anne project, which was paid for by both RA and Washington Plaza Association. Cardinal Landscaping has worked with RA on similar projects throughout Reston.

THE LOGS, a combination of natural coconut fiber and rope webbing, provide the Association with an effective and environmentally-friendly method to prevent shore erosion.

The “soft engineering” use of bio-logs also supports native wetland plants, thus increasing wildlife habitat along the lakes. The plants, with strong root systems, decrease the chance of soil degradation during bad weather.

“We’ve got them on all the ponds and all the lakes,” said Claudia Thompson-Deahl, RA’s environmental resource manager. “We encourage lakefront homeowners to use them.”

In partnership with RA, Burns replaced the bulkheads with the bio-logs and planted a few hundred native wetland plants.

“I have burreed, soft rush, pickerel weed, arrow arum, jewel weed, blue flag iris and cardinal flower,” said Burns. “You can hardly see the bio-logs now because the plants have done so well.”

Working with Burns on the project, Diana Handy, RA’s watershed manager, said that people who like a more natural shoreline, like Burns, are pleased with the installation of bio-logs. “We’ve been doing a lot of bio-log work in the last few years,” said Handy. “They offer benefits to water quality and wildlife habitat,” she said, adding that bio-log installation does not require Design Review Board approval.

Understanding how easy it is to damage the health of the lake with fertilizer or pesticides, Burns said she liked the idea of bio-logs because it was a “chance to give back.”

“This is part of a way to reverse things and make things a little better for nature,” she said. “Literally as they were planting the plants into the bio-logs, dragonflies started coming over — it was that fast.”

Burns has noticed the that the area fosters safe havens and nurseries for “critters,” like fish and turtles. “The smallest [turtle] I’ve seen is smaller than a quarter,” said Burns. “It’s attracting all the good stuff.”

OTHER SITES IN RESTON that contain bio-log shoreline stabilization include the Shores Cluster on Lake Audubon, Purple Beech area, Chadds Ford Cluster and areas along Lake Newport.

There are other shoreline stabilization methods that RA sometimes employs. One of these alternative methods is riprap, a “hard” engineering practice, which requires placement of rock beds on the stream banks or at the channel bottom, with concrete poured into the holes where the rocks are placed to better secure them. Another method is using plant vegetation on the shoreline, but this method is not considered a long-term solution that can withstand severe weather.