Review of Boat Wake Wave Impacts on Shoreline Erosion and Potential Solutions for the Chesapeake Bay

The review panel was tasked with assessing the relevant information available on the potential impacts of boat generated waves on shoreline stability and attendant ecosystem properties (e.g., vegetative habitat, faunal community composition, nearshore total suspended solid concentration), and provide advice on available policy actions to minimize any adverse effects.  

STAC was also asked to address several questions related to:

(i) erosion and sediment inputs caused by boat wake waves,

(ii) identifying existing data and/or research needs to develop best management practices to minimize shoreline erosion from boat wake waves, and

(iii) political and legal challenges associated with policy actions to reduce adverse boat wake impacts.

In its report, the review panel reviewed available literature, examined relevant data and information from Chesapeake Bay, discussed modeling approaches and highlighted data gaps to further quantify effects on shorelines and ecosystems, and detailed available management and policy actions to minimize potential boat wake impacts.

The review panel found that boat generated waves, particularly in shallow and narrow waterways, can increase turbidity, erode shorelines, compromise coastal habitats, and disrupt ecosystems.  Additional data and modeling are needed to determine the full extent to which boat wakes are contributing to erosion or turbidity of the Chesapeake Bay.

Important recommended next steps are to identify highly vulnerable waterways in the Bay, implement management or policy actions to minimize adverse effects, and consider boating effects when siting Bay restoration activities.