Pros & Cons: Riprap Shorelines vs. Native Shorelines
So…you’ve decided that it’s time to “restore your shore”. Naturally you’re interested in your options. There are really only two viable options for you to consider – the riprap approach, or the native approach. Here are the pros and cons of each:
Cons of native shorelines:
Provides breeding grounds for mosquitoes, as well as habitat for other unwanted pests and/or insects.
Rarely does it help property value, and sometimes can even drag down property value (if the shoreline “appears” weedy and unkempt).
Although an established native shoreline can be a great natural defense against erosion, it can also wash away if subject to high water-levels or intense waves for an extended period of time. Also, a single epic storm can wipe out a native shoreline.
They’re very high-maintenance for the first handful of years, and they will almost always require some amount of continued maintenance (unless you want your shoreline to look abandoned and overtaken by weeds).
They may appear unsightly to some people – like a patch of weeds (which in many cases is accurate).
Large amounts of planning required: what is the native soil type, how much foliage to keep/remove/add, which plants need more sunlight, which area stay dry vs wet…and the list goes on.
Pros of native shorelines:
Filters runoff from adjacent land (e.g. your yard) of silt, salt, pesticides & fertilizers, reducing the amount that reaches the water.
Long roots of native plants help to filter out pollution before it reaches the water.
Provides shade, shelter, and food for shallow-water fish and other aquatic life.
Provides habitat for various forms of wildlife.
Provides or creates a privacy buffer.
Can slow water runoff from adjacent land, giving additional time for runoff to soak into the ground before being flushed directly into the lake.
Can help prevent erosion once established, if under normal circumstances (average water-level, no epic storms, etc.).
Fairly low-maintenance once established.
The county may offer grant money for native shoreline restoration projects.
Cons of riprap shorelines:
Although by no means harmful, riprap doesn’t add anything beneficial to the lake water, mammals, aquatic life, etc. It’s stone, plain and simple.
Won’t filter runoff from adjacent land.
Does not help with flooding, because it doesn’t absorb any water.
Typically costs more than a native shoreline – but not always.
Pros of riprap shorelines:
Prevents erosion under almost any circumstances.
Very little planning involved.
Hassle-free to install. You can have a riprap shoreline in as fast as just a few days.
Little-to-no weeding or maintenance required.
Almost always increases property value.
Deters insects from making your shoreline their breeding ground.
Dissuades critters (e.g. muskrats and other fury little mammals) from tunneling into your shoreline and setting up camp.
Grant money may also be available for riprap shoreline restoration projects when native plantings are simply not a viable option, or when riprap is combined with native plantings (e.g. a portion of your shoreline is planted with native plants, while another portion is completed using riprap.)
Looks attractive, clean, yet natural. Good riprap shorelines often look like they’ve been around since the Jurassic.