I've lived on Albemarle Sound in northeastern NC for more than 29 years, and we use three types of bulkheads here. (It is a wide, shallow fresh water sound, with many rivers and creeks feeding into it, and a lot of wetlands.)
The most common bulkheading here is pressure-treated wood. It is usually the least expensive ($65 per linear foot and up), and should last for a few decades, if installed properly with good materials. "Installed properly means at least as much wood in the ground as above it in the water and air.)
The vinyl bulkheads are gaining favor (supposed "lifetime" warranty), but usually start at about $100 per linear foot and up. It comes in different colors, but here it usually gets a film of black algae on it anyway.
Some use rip-rap over bulkhead fabric ground cloth, but being fresh water, rip-rap increases the snake population. Many won't use it here just for that reason.
A hurricane can take any of them out.
When we replaced our bulkhead a couple of years ago, we went with pressure-treated wood, and are quite happy with that.
Edit: Depending on the incline angle of your embankment, you may want to look into ground netting like that used by highway departments on steep embankments, and plant a deep root ground cover over it. You can even use monofiliament fishing net for this. If it is real steep, you also may want to consider more than one level of bulkheading to create a terrace effect to prevent erosion.
Last edited by Mike Swearingen; 10-16-2005 at 08:13 PM.