There is nothing like the aesthetic beauty of the water, and for this reason people love living on the banks. Rivers naturally have trees and shrubs around their banks which helps prevent against the erosion from constantly moving water. When people build their houses next to the water these things can get in the way of the view, and so much of it is removed. With no vegetation to trap sediment the shoreline begins eroding at a much faster pace. bulkheads (left) and rip-raps (right) are barriers that are built to prevent this from happening. Rip-Raps have more of a natural appearance though they are not always made of just rocks, they can also contain pieces of concrete. They are much cheaper and easier to build than bulkheads, yet are still more expensive than natural vegetated barriers. Bulkheads are walls rather than slopes. Although they serve the same purpose as rip-rap's they are more expensive and more effective (at a price). Both of these can be found in areas where there is lots of housing right along the river. Bulkheads are more prevalent in the downtown Salisbury area.
How does this affect the ecosystem?
Both of these come with their negative impacts, especially bulkheads. Rather than the water eroding sediment along the shoreline, the water erodes the sediment resting at the bottom of the bulkhead. This creates a deeper section directly off the shore because sediment is pushed away from the bulkhead and deposited elsewhere. As a result there is a loss of habitat directly along the shorelines, including fisheries.
Living Shoreline. Source: CCRM (Click for more)
A third type of shoreline is the living shoreline, which is made up of different types of vegetation. Areas of the Wicomico that aren't as developed (further from Salisbury) often have living shorelines which can be made up of tidal marshes in the lower sections of the river, and often are uplands once you move further up river. Living shorelines have more benefits than bulkheads or rip-raps because they not only protect from erosion, but also provide habitat for numerous species and organisms. They also help reduce nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus in heavily polluted rivers because the vegetation requires them. Living shorelines can be restored in areas where they no longer exist, and can stabilize a shoreline to the same effect that other traditional methods would. Not only are they aesthetically beautiful but they also serve as a buffer zone for flooding when that is necessary. Overall, the benefit of a living shoreline outweighs the benefits of rock revetments or bulkheads.
An example of this is seen at Salisbury City Park. In 2007 the Chesapeake Bay Foundation partnered with the city of Salisbury to restore a section of Beaverdam Creek that ran through the city with a living shoreline. The project used bay-friendly landscaping techniques.
<-- A group of volunteers helps plant a living shoreline at the Salisbury City Park.