Shore Protection Structures
Guides to Building Shore Protection Structures

Here are some older guides listed below about designing and building shore protection structures on the Great Lakes and other coastal shores. They include:

  • Help Yourself. General Information Pamphlet. A discussion of erosion problems on the Great Lakes and alternative methods of shore protection. June 1973. Revised 1978 and 1986. This pamphlet published by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, contained helpful tables for sizing shore protection structures based on maximum estimated water depths 50 feet offshore of the structure. This 25-page pamphlet is out of print and out of date.
  • How to Protect Your Shore Property. March 1986. This 63-page booklet published by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources was similar to the Help Yourself pamplet, but without the tables for sizing shore protection structures.
  • Shore Protection Manual. 1984. This two-volume engineering manual published by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers served for many years as a basic reference and design manual for shore protection. It is out of date and has been replaced by the Coastal Engineering Manual (CEM).
  • Coastal Engineering Manual (CEM). The CEM was produced by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Coastal Hydraulics Laboratory. The CEM is being published as an electronic, interactive engineering manual to be available only on CDs. The CEM is intended to replace the outdated Shore Protection Manual. Versions 2.01PE and 2.01SE are now available (2005). The CDs can be ordered from: Veri-Tech, Inc., P.O. Box 820109, Vicksburg, MS 39182-0109.

Selected chapters of the CEM are presently available on the CHL web site in PDF format at:

New Advice on Shore Protection for Great Lakes Property Owners:

Living on the Coast: Protecting Investments in Shore Property on the Great Lakes.
The University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute led the writing and publishing of a new, 50 page booklet to replace the out-of-date Help Yourself pamphlet, with funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Detroit District). The project began in 2000 and a final version was published and distributed in fall, 2003. There are 24 contributing writers from Canada and the U.S.

The new booklet has this principal message: Given the natural coastal processes at work along the shores of the Great Lakes, do everything possible to avoid placing buildings and other structures where flooding, storm waves and erosion are likely to shorten their useful lives. Do everything possible to avoid reliance on traditional, constructed shore protection structures.

This message is very different from the messages found

in the Help Yourself booklet (1978) that this new booklet replaces. The 1978 booklet promoted traditional shore protection structures and offered dimensions and armor stone sizes for various types of structures and near shore lakebed slopes. The difference is partly due to two factors:

  1. A growing understanding that many traditional types of shore protection structures are undermined and their useful lives shortened by lakebed erosion and freeze/thaw cracking of armor stone.

  1. Increasing recognition of the need for professional geotechnical and coastal engineering services due to the complexities of coastal processes and shore protection structure designs, much larger coastal investments, and adverse effects of structures on other property owners and local environments. Shore protection in many situations is no longer a “help yourself” proposition.

The booklet will be most helpful to persons who plan to build new structures on deep, spacious lots along the Great Lakes coasts. The booklet also contains information for people who are not able to relocate existing buildings to safe sites; people for whom armoring the shore is their only protection option. Advice will be offered on how to stabilize bluffs and banks, control surfacewater and groundwater, and build shore protection structures.To order, go to, cost is only $4 per copy, shipping included.